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It's True: GRIT Can Be A Game-Changer

Insights based on The Flexible Advisor podcast

How we respond to obstacles can help shape our success

No matter what business we are in, what obstacles we sometimes face, or even what tragedies may cross our path, we have to choose how to respond. In our industry, managers and teams are facing a particularly volatile and challenging environment. How we respond will likely have both short- and long-term ramifications.

Austin Hatch, an inspirational speaker and the mastermind behind the Grit framework, recently spoke with The Flexible Advisor about his experience with remarkable tragedy, and how his story of hope and persistence can help anyone seeking to adapt to the unexpected.

The Unimaginable

“I've had two really bad days in my life. The first was September 1, 2003, my family and I were flying home to Fort Wayne Indiana. As we were preparing to land, the airplane crashed and burst into flames, killing my 38-year-old mom, Julie; my sister Lindsay who was 11; and my little brother Ian, who was five.”

“My dad somehow pressed on. He showed me how we could learn to live with that loss. He eventually remarried a lovely woman named Kimberly. They had three kids. It was great to have a mom and siblings again. And I was working really hard on my basketball skills. When I was 16, John Beilein, the University of Michigan basketball coach, came to watch me play. A few months later he offered me a scholarship.”

The second ‘really bad day’ came nine days after that, June 15, 2011. “A second plane crash killed my dad and Kimberly, and almost killed me as well. I was in a coma for two months with a traumatic brain injury, punctured lungs, fractured clavicles, broken hip, five broken ribs, hematoma in my leg, deep cuts all over my body.  By the grace of God, I survived. I had to learn how to walk, talk, eat, and breathe — how take care of myself and live life.”

“I couldn't expect to achieve my ultimate goal if I wasn't winning one day at a time.” – Austin Hatch

The Aftermath

While the depth of this tragedy is unfathomable, Hatch’s message is as simple as it is powerful, and it comes down to one word: Grit. “We all face challenges. We have to rely on other people to overcome them, but it starts with us. It's going to take some grit.” For Hatch, the key to finding that grit was finding a greater purpose. “I think we need to work with something bigger than ourselves. It's different for all of us but I think we need something that drives us to do what it takes to achieve our goals.” Greater purpose drives grit in the face of challenge and adversity.

In Hatch’s case, that came from an unexpected source. “Coach Beilein came to visit me in the hospital. I'd come out of the coma, but as they say, ‘the lights were on but nobody was home.’ He basically said, ‘Austin, whenever you're able to come to Michigan I can't wait to coach you’. I was in a wheelchair, we didn't know if I was ever going to walk again, and he said he can't wait to coach me.” That, Hatch said, inspired him to apply his grit every single day. “I couldn’t expect to achieve my ultimate goal if I wasn't winning one day at a time.”


  • We grow from how we choose to respond. 

  • Resilience is process focused.

  • Integrity is following through on our commitments.

The Greater Purpose Takes Shape

That experience and insight inspired Hatch to develop the ‘GRIT framework’ as a tool for others facing adverse circumstances.

G — Growth mindset.

“I believe we can grow from anything we experience. Nobody grows from the challenges in their life, we grow from how we choose to respond. It's a choice to look at adversity as an opportunity. It's a choice not to have the victim mindset. It's a choice to decide that we're going to find a way to be resilient.”

R — Resilience.

“I think resilience is process focused. Resilience is day-to-day. You're resilient when you show up and act consistently. My dad always said, ‘Austin, whatever you do, go big.  Don't waste your time going halfway.’ In the face of adversity, you can't go small. Going big in the face of adversity doesn't guarantee we'll overcome all of our challenges, but I believe going small in the face of adversity will guarantee that we don't.”

I — Integrity.

“I believe integrity is following through on our commitments. I won’t say it's easy to follow through on our commitments when circumstances are good, but it's easier. When circumstances change, it’s easier to not follow through on our commitment, to not do what we said we would. Look at what Coach Beilein did for me: He offered me a scholarship when I was playing at a pretty high level. After the second plane crash I was in a wheelchair. I couldn't walk. He didn't know if I would ever walk again but he said, ‘I can't wait to have you on my team someday.’  He had made a commitment, so the follow-through was a no-brainer.” The takeaway: ”Everybody on your team, your customers, your clients, should know that when you make a commitment, you’re going to follow through no matter what.”

T —Team first.

“I think we can all be great teammates. Everybody on the team has a role. I couldn't play on the court, but I could be a great teammate. I could shag balls at practice, help with drills, unload luggage, and work hard every day to be the best that I can be. That was my role. My goal in life is to add value to every situation I'm ever a part of — whether it's in my marriage, as a dad, in companies I work with, teams I'm a part of. I want to add value to everything I'm a part of, every time.”

The Lesson In Action

It’s often said that people don't leave jobs, they leave managers. The four components of the Grit framework create a solid game plan for any financial professional. Where to begin? “I think it starts with the leader, and the most powerful way to lead is by example,” said Hatch. “How can we expect things of our team that we're not showing ourselves on a day-to-day basis? I think Coach Beilein did that so well. He never asked anybody to do anything that he wasn't willing to do himself. He never asked anybody to behave in a way that he wasn't behaving himself.”

In the end, “It's how you show up,” said Hatch. “It's how you serve your people, how you make them better, and becoming better yourself through those engagements.”

You can access the full discussion on The Flexible Advisor, wherever you get your podcasts.

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