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'Grit to Great': Linda Kaplan Thaler

Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership
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'Grit to Great': Linda Kaplan Thaler

Linda Kaplan Thaler, a proud CCNY alumna, has created advertising recognized in virtually every household across the country. From major campaigns for Wendy’s, Toys ‘R Us, and Clairol, to the tremendously popular Aflac duck, Kaplan Thaler’s ad agency has played a key role in establishing name recognition for some of the world’s largest companies, and with her co-founder, Robin Koval, built one of the fastest growing ad agencies in the country.

If you ask her to talk about her success, she’d probably deflect the question, saying that she’s ‘just a girl from the Bronx’ who made it to City College and worked hard. Those who know and have worked with her would tell you that’s not the half of it. Indeed, she did work hard, at CCNY and beyond. As a member of CCNY’s class of 1972, she graduated with a psychology degree before advancing to earn an MA in music. But she’s also built an astounding professional career through positive messaging in marketing and branding. She’s also easily recognized as one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  In a business that thrives on the next big idea, the old virtue of being nice has been a cornerstone of Linda’s approach to her professional life, and is something she brings to every aspect of her work.  Indeed, her New York Times bestselling book, The Power of Nice, extolls this virtue as a sound business practice.

As a current member of the Colin Powell School’s Board of Visitors (and founding member of the former Colin Powell Center’s Advisory Council) Linda has been a dedicated peer and staunch advocate for the school and its students.

Now Kaplan Thaler, along with co-author Robin Koval, has completed a new book, Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary. The book debunks the idea that you need a genius IQ, virtuoso talent, or extraordinary wealth in order to be successful. Rather, Kaplan Thaler and Koval contend that the vast majority of successful people don’t possess some “it” factor; rather they display what they call the “GRIT factor”: guts, resilience, initiative, and tenacity.

The underlying message in Grit to Great underscores the Colin Powell School’s mission and the legacy of the City College of New York, where for decades, hardworking students from all over the world—including students that face unique challenges, like those who are first in their family to attend college, working parents, or new Americans—have been depending on just those qualities to serve them in their journeys.

For the Colin Powell School, Kaplan Thaler has been one of the most important voices on what makes a difference for our students—being part of a school that takes their ideas and potential seriously. She has persistently reminded us that one of the board’s truest missions is to help create an environment in which faculty and staff can prepare each of our students for success—a  success measured by the dedication and passion students display in pursuit of a better future for themselves and for others around the globe.

We will welcome Linda Kaplan Thaler to campus this fall for a “Conversations with Leaders” event, hosted by the Colin Powell School. We will formally announce the date and location of the event in early September. To read more about the power of identifying your passion and taking your own life from ‘ordinary to great,’ pick up a copy of “Grit to Great” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval from Amazon, iBooks, or Barnes and Noble