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“To develop Grit, don’t be your true self … be your best self” With Gretel dePillis and Phil Laboon

Don’t be “your true self”, be “your best self”. I say this because what if your “true” self is petty, grumpy and unreasonable. Instead, can we evaluate our actions and see how we can be better tomorrow than we were yesterday? Can we spread the truth instead of gossip? Can we give encouragement instead of […]


Don’t be “your true self”, be “your best self”. I say this because what if your “true” self is petty, grumpy and unreasonable. Instead, can we evaluate our actions and see how we can be better tomorrow than we were yesterday? Can we spread the truth instead of gossip? Can we give encouragement instead of trying to make others feel small? If we encourage others to be their best, we can be our best and iron sharpens iron to make the environment continuously better and better.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Gretel dePillis. Gretel has taken numerous lessons learned from her years in business analysis and has developed a niche publishing company, Pure Force Enterprises publishing. Her goal is to generate gripping stories each of which has key lessons to be learned. In other words, it is an entertaining way to take dry facts and make them more relevant to the reader, thereby increasing the reader’s ability to retain that information because facts are now interwoven into a memorable story.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

The ideal path to any career would be well planned. Well, mine wasn’t. I majored in a course of study which, for various reasons outside of my control, were not employable at the time. Thus, I knew I needed to pick up on fresh skills fast. As a result, a couple things happened. First, I gained confidence in my ability to adapt and learn new skills. Next, I headed down a new path. Fortunately, my parents had instructed me always to try and master a hobby which was opposite to what I was doing at the time just in case my hobby needed to become my main income-earning trajectory.

So, as the story goes, I had an unexpected start to my career and I pursued the opportunities presented to me. On the other hand, I always had a couple of hobby-passions which I simply did not develop until recently, including the goal of publishing a very specific sort of story-type. I was not, however, able to have publishing be my focus, without the confidence to adapt, which I honed through responding to unexpected events. The first of which was the need to get employed, even though all the jobs in my area were not hiring.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I would never refer to transition points as “hard times”, but since you asked the question, allow me to elaborate:

1) Graduation made me realize I had to make a major career change

2) Mid-way through my alternate career path, I had packed my car to get away for the holidays, only to find my car was not only missing the next day, but blown up. The cold case was never solved. Soon thereafter, my job evaporated.

3) At one point, when I thought was on a solid career path, I was confronted with another corporate change which required I adapt and adjust. That was when I decided to find a niche in publishing.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Despite the challenges of an unsolved case and corporate imposed change, I decided to focus on all that was good in my life. For example, at the time of my unfortunate car incident, my local law enforcement said that although it was significant loss of property, there was no loss of life and they were only permitted to investigate loss of life…They themselves were forced to execute cut backs due to budget reductions and that meant that they could no longer allow police to travel in cars together, and some officers were working double shifts regularly. Staff was spread thin, physically exhausted, and they needed to prioritize crimes to investigate. Therefore, I was very happy that I had not been physically harmed. Property can eventually be replaced. The experience helped me learn compassion and how an incident cannot define me. It gave me determination to deal with what I had left to make sure I could develop something which gave others hope.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

At any point, I could have given up and simply put the least amount of effort into any task. Instead, I decided to learn everything I could about the task so I would become the expert.

Certain problems have been resolved through focused determination. Common sense is not so common. One cannot assume others will operate under the same ethical principals as your own.s. My first response is to trust another person, but I also like to see tiny bits of evidence that we are aligned and have the synergy to take that next step to resolving an issue.

I keep telling myself that if I am consistently ethical, kind, and considerate toward others, then eventually something will budge and the product I produce will be top notch…and something of which I could be proud.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

The journey continues. The skills which resolved issues of yesterday are better honed now to address and hopefully avert problems of tomorrow. Inevitably, a new situation which requires one’s attention will arise. Now I have a good circle of trustworthy people on whom I may rely. Now I know whom to go to for what, and can delegate tasks so I don’t try to “do it all” and spread myself too thin. Overall, I would say change is constant. Adapting helps one to remain structured as long as it is within certain ethical parameters.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1. Easy reading means hard writing.

a) When you create something, be it code or a book or a business plan, execute it over and over and over until it is perfect… and even then, have somebody else look at it with fresh perspective to catch something you may have missed.

b) I first started writing seriously when I was being trained in a classroom setting by a martial-arts instructor. This instructor had training experience with foreign military specialist types. I was injured during a belt elevation and snapped my leg, stretching the ligaments. I never had surgery, but did use a cane to aid me in walking and depressing the clutch in my stick-shift car. I took some time off to try and allow my knee ligaments to repair. During that time, I partnered up and wrote a story. Later on, I read the manuscript and found so many plot flaws, I was determined to start over. In my next project, I wrote and re-wrote and asked for a second set of eyes…then a third… and asked if people felt anything for the characters. I painted that word canvas with so many figurative layers of paint, I started to build a three-dimensional work. I finally was satisfied when I asked a critical medical professional (who prided himself on being a realist) to review the manuscript. The reaction was surprising. This professional carved out time each morning to read a bit more. At first, that professional related to one character, but by the end of the book, the reader identified with a totally different character,.and confided that there was layered meaning within the story that made re-reading it a fresh experience. To me, that is the hallmark of a future classic: The ability to read it over and over and still love the story. With that, I knew I needed those elements in stories which were researched- and fact-checked so that students would remember those facts because of the supporting storyline which wove those elements into a memorable experience.

2. Focus on the positive

a) As I mentioned earlier, the way to move forward is to look forward. Don’t look backwards. Learn from the past, but do not dwell there. Personally, I advocate being as prepared as possible, but realize some negative things will happen which are outside of your control. It is during those times, you need to focus your energy on the resolution and look to the hopeful future. Identify the positive things you have in the present moment. Give yourself a time limit to grieve or feel a bit of self-pity, but then when that time is up, force yourself to focus on the positive.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. …do not be anxious about anything, … let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds… Philippians 4

3. Investigate to uncover the truth. Double check stories with objective facts.

a) I have encountered those who jump to conclusions. Perhaps they believe gossip and lies spread about a coworker. Do not blindly believe the negative stories you hear, even if it is from somebody who claims to be watching out for you. Instead, look at the facts and investigate to ascertain the truth of the situation.

4. Assume somebody is watching.

a) I like to operate under the principle that somebody is always watching. Some people are encouraged by your actions. Even if you think nobody is watching… somebody probably is. Avoid even the appearance of evil.

b) A long time ago, I had a job in a building where manufacturing of the product took place. Not many women worked there. One day, I was asked to cover the front reception desk while the receptionist took a long lunch. Part of her duties were to ask each employee to donate a tree ornament for the Christmas tree in the lobby. I had a list of who had donated and who had not. Soon, one of the manufacturing men came in and the list indicated he had not yet donated an ornament. This particular gentleman had taken scrap aluminum and created nameplates for people’s desks. He had not made one for me. I reminded him, “Remember to donate an ornament for the lobby Christmas tree…”. The reaction I got was fast, furious and loud. Without going into what he specifically said, shall we say it was an expletive-laden blast which blew my hair straight back as I had to hang on during the hurricane force winds of fury. What I can share is that he ended his sentiment with something along the lines of, “…If I ever donated anything it would be a skull and crossbones.” I took a deep breath and smiled, saying, “As long as it is given in the spirit of the season to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I am certain it would be most welcomed.” Indeed, he became frustrated and stormed off. Mind you, this was not the way I had wanted to spend my lunch hour. This gentleman was very active in the local Satanic church. Much later on, the company branch I had been working in closed down. I returned one day to collect my final paycheck. I was surprised to bump into this particular gentleman in the lobby. As my check was being organized, this gentleman asked me into his back office. Admittedly, I was a little nervous, but followed him, anyway. Instead of yelling at me, he actually thanked me. “For what”? I had asked. He presented me with my name carved onto a nameplate, but not in the scrap aluminum which was the material he had used for all the other name plates in the company. The nameplate he presented to me was made of Lexan, a clear hard material he said is usually used as a windscreen for jets. He said it was the strongest purest material he could find to carve on his CNC Lathe. He said our exchange about the Christmas tree ornament had stuck with him all this time. It made him really evaluate his recent life choices. Long story short, he left the Satanic church and joined a local church… and made many other life changes which were surprisingly positive. I must say, I left that day with my final paycheck and my new clear sturdy nameplate. I still have it to remind me that you never know who is watching so really try your hardest to be on your best behavior.

5. Don’t be “your true self”, be “your best self”

a) I say this because what if your “true” self is petty, grumpy and unreasonable. Instead, can we evaluate our actions and see how we can be better tomorrow than we were yesterday? Can we spread the truth instead of gossip? Can we give encouragement instead of trying to make others feel small? If we encourage others to be their best, we can be our best and iron sharpens iron to make the environment continuously better and better.

6. You will never have all the information you need to make those vital decisions. Evaluate the facts you do have and make the most informed choice you can.

I learned this lesson from my father. It seemed as if the more important a decision was, the less information I had about it. I have to count on my past experience, investigate what I can, seek the counsel of those whom I trust, and then confer with God in prayer and make a choice. If I have peace and calm about it, I’ll go with it. If I am still uneasy about the selection I’ve made, I need to delve into the root cause and ascertain WHY I feel uneasy and see if that feeling is based on fact or just nerves.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

It is very important to understand that you never make any journey alone. There are always others who help shape your trajectory. In my case, my successes were supported and encouraged by my family. At each stumbling block, I got the affirmation to keep on going, stay true to your principles even when I witness other people who cheat or take short cuts and make superficial advancement. The wise words of my family put into perspective that the skills I was learning the hard way would last me longer. Sure enough, in hindsight, I have learned that some of those people who seemed to get ahead actually did not in the long run. I do not want to share any specific examples because their life choices are their own and the consequences of their actions are something they need to deal with…it is their business and not mine to share with you. Thank you for understanding that.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that if you have personally endured and persevered while maintaining a bright outlook, that the way you can bring goodness to the world is to give hope and encouragement to others. The books which Pure Force Enterprises publishes all end well and provide encouragement. The message should be that things could be difficult but the right choice is worth it. You know we have already launched the Daisy’s Adventures series. Next in the pipeline is the Bjorn series, which targets a more raconteur mature reader who is intrigued by action adventure, but still thirsts for learning. These are all serial characters which are themselves memorable to read about, and leave the reader inspired to be a better person.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am working on a couple of exciting projects. One is the new Bjorn series, which should be out for publication in a few months. All the stories I publish are designed to be engaging, uplifting, encouraging of wise choices, as well as the promotion of patriotic ways to be a good citizen, and appreciation for friends and family who nourish you.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I would share with executives that they set the example. They cannot tell their employees to take their health seriously if “the boss” brings in candy and donuts to the office and does not ever give them time to leave their desks. The executives set the business strategy, but they also set the culture of the office. All the executives need to band together and align on what message their actions convey to the staff. Be consistent. Be noble. Be patient. Be ethical. Reward good work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I would want to inspire is one where people could get ahead by being their best, most honorable and noble selves. By going out of your way to treat others with gallantry and respect, you are setting the example for others to continue that ripple effect. Today so many corporations tend to treat their staff as disposable. Lay off an entire department, and then if you need some more people get cheaper less experienced workers or outsource the work. This gives the message that employee skills are valued less and less as time goes on, which is demoralizing and discouraging. If the employee is constantly looking for their next job, they are not focused on making your workplace the best it can be. If the worker shows the company loyalty, will the company show the worker loyalty in return?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

God gave you a talent and you are under obligation to use it.

When I make a choice, I use this guide:

1) Is the option moral & ethical?

2) Is the option going to permit me to use, improve or learn a new talent which God has given me?

I had the splendid opportunity to live with the sisters at the convent community of St. John the Baptist in Mendham, New Jersey. The sisters were warm, and encouraging., . Their offers of prayers and other gestures of appreciation is something I will always remember as I feel I have made some lifelong friends. When I was searching for a place to live, I opted to live in the building which was architected to model a centuries-old French monastery nestled in over 100 acres of peaceful nature. These sisters did not remove themselves from the world They actively engaged by providing relief and a ministry of hope to countless souls who sought solace and wisdom in those walls. They validated the guidelines I used and that those guidelines would keep me on the right path when wading through a sea of options.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I only have a LinkedIN profile. Other than that, I try to interact with people directly and not via social media. I think technology should support and not replace relationships. I’m not playing hide-and-seek, I just am not interested in racking up “clicks” or “likes”. I would be very interested in making a sincere connection, but not via social media. The younger generations may be more comfortable with technology than the older generations, but conversely, the younger generation may be in need of developing more direct human-contact skills.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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