In an interview on NPR’s Here & Now, actor Henry Winkler revealed two principles that guide his life: tenacity and gratitude. As an actor, Winkler, best known for his role as Fonzie in the super successful sitcom, Happy Days, has known like most actors his share of ups and downs. These days Winkler, who has directed and produced shows and authored best-selling children’s books, is happily working as a regular on two television shows. His giving back comes in his long time involvement in children’s charities.

Not only should gratitude and tenacity hold actors in good stead, they are principles for anyone in the workforce to remember. Tenacity is the grit in the gut that keeps you going, keeps you focused on achieving your goals. Gratitude is more than giving thanks; it is an attitude of thankfulness that creates a positive sense. As a combination they complement each other by steeling oneself against adversity with the sense of humility in acknowledging that good fortune brings responsibility.

As virtues, tenacity and gratitude are nice to have; as behaviors they are a strong combination found in many successful individuals. Here are some suggestions to for putting each to work.

Tenacity complements motivation, an intrinsic desire to take action. Those who achieve more in the face of resistance are tenacious. To apply tenacity to your work life, consider:

  • When obstacles come your way, size them up before attacking. Find ways to break big roadblocks into smaller ones that you can surmount one by one.
  • Use someone else’s no as an opportunity to assess where you are now and what you need to do next.
  • Do not stop believing in your ability to achieve. This does not mean you will succeed at every dream–after all not all of us can play the violin, run a marathon, or become a CEO. But believe in self will push you into endeavors in which you can excel.

Gratitude is really a form of humility, an acknowledgement that my good fortune was not all my own doing–others helped me to achieve. Therefore, I should consider giving back. To demonstrate gratitude, consider:

  • Find ways to share what you know with your colleagues. Use your experience to help them leverage their skills.
  • Look for opportunities to pitch in to help colleagues complete their work in timely and responsible fashion. [This is not the same as covering for incompetent coworker.]
  • Share your expertise in your community, as a volunteer teacher, coach or mentor.
  • Exercise humility. Reflect on how you treat others. Find room to do better the next time.

True enough, tenacity and especially gratitude can be reduced to feel good aphorisms, or worse platitudes. The danger in doing so is that the intention of such virtues becomes nothing more than greeting card rhetoric, or as the Irish are fond of saying, palaver.

Too bad! Tenacity is a sense of spunk; it fuels a sense of get up and go. While it is easy to think of it applied to the young, Winkler, now in his sixties, is living proof that if you like what you do and want to keep doing it, pursue it.

And gratitude because it is focused on giving never goes out of style. It rounds out our humanity and confirms that being human carries with it certain responsibilities, one of them being thankful for what you have received. That is, be proud of your achievements but consider the due-date on any obligations you may have accrued along the way.

First posted on FastCompany.com on 8.24.10