I APOLOGIZE UPFRONT if you thought this article was about technology in the brokerage space. They would have asked someone much smarter to write this piece if that were the case! My focus is on people—and more specifically, how to develop mental toughness in a competitive marketplace. Technology is not enough to set you apart. It’s the price of entry. I tell our team that the true differentiator is people and execution. Operational excellence is vital—but strength of mind is the glue that holds it together, regardless of the circumstances.
Mental toughness is not a natural gift. It is something to be learned and practiced through the course of a life or career. Over the past decade, I have relied on two concepts to help build mine: Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Stoic Philosophy. Let’s discuss EQ first. I am a big fan of Dr. Travis Bradberry—award-winning author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. He writes: “Decades of research now point to EQ being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high EQ.”
So, what are the don’t do behaviors of high EQers? Bradberry lists several:
They don’t stay in their comfort zone. High EQers are very self-aware and continue to challenge themselves outside their comfort zone. The only way to improve is to step into situations you are not comfortable with.
They don’t give in to fear. If you use fear as an excuse not to do something, you’ve already lost. It’s not that emotionally intelligent people aren’t afraid—they simply pick themselves up and fight on regardless of the fear.
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They don’t stop believing in themselves. Emotionally intelligent people persevere. They don’t give up in the face of failure, and they don’t give up because they’re tired or uncomfortable.
They don’t beg for attention. Emotionally intelligent people couldn’t care less about attention. They do what they want to do and what needs to be done, regardless of whether anyone is stroking their ego.
They don’t act like jerks. Emotionally intelligent people place high value on their relationships, which means they treat everyone with respect, regardless of the kind of mood they’re in.
They don’t hold grudges. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs.
They don’t feel sorry for themselves. Feeling sorry for yourself is, in essence, declaring that you’re a helpless victim of circumstance. Emotionally intelligent people never feel sorry for themselves because that would mean giving up their power.
They don’t feel entitled. Emotionally intelligent people believe that the world is a meritocracy and that the only things that they deserve are those that they earn. People who lack EQ often feel entitled.
They don’t close their minds. Emotionally intelligent people aren’t threatened by new things; they’re open to new information and new ideas, even if it means admitting that they are wrong.
They don’t get eaten up by jealousy and envy. Emotionally intelligent people understand that the happiness and success of others doesn’t take away from their own, so jealousy and envy aren’t an issue for them. They see success as being in unlimited supply, so they can celebrate others’ successes.
They don’t live in the past. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this if they’re living in the past.
That is great stuff from Bradberry. But the power really comes to fruition when you lay the right EQ behaviors on top of a strong philosophical foundation. Over the past several years, I have found the four virtues of Stoic Philosophy—Courage, Temperance, Justice and Wisdom—to be that solid foundation. Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite authors in this space. His books, Ego Is the Enemy, and The Obstacle Is the Way—along with his daily teachings on the Stoic Philosophy through his website (Dailystoic.com) and podcast—show how the four virtues preached by the ancient Stoics has been the common thread through some of history’s greatest leaders. As he puts it, “Stoicism is a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous, and wiser—and as a result, better people, better parents, and better professionals.” Let’s explore the four virtues in more detail:
Courage: Be brave. Face the problem—don’t run away from it.
Temperance: Have moderation and balance in your life. Do the right thing in the right amount in the right way.
Justice: Being brave. Finding the right balance. These are core Stoic virtues, but they pale in comparison to what the Stoics worshipped most highly: Doing the right thing.
Wisdom: Knowing. Learning. Listen more than we speak. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Remain a student and act wisely.
There will always be disruptions and rapid changes in our industry, including those ushered in by evolving technology. Companies will continue to chase that best-in-class title, but those that focus on building great leaders and instilling mental toughness will always be in contention. Emotional Intelligence and the four virtues of the Stoic Philosophy are an excellent place to start.