Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ground Down or Polished Up by John C. Maxwell

A few years ago a friend was telling me about stopping at a junkyard to get a part for his car (today they are called recycling centers; back then junkyard was still an acceptable term!). As he was making small talk with the owner, he asked him where he got his inventory, assuming most came in as a result of automobile accidents. "I get a few of my cars from wrecks," the man said. "But most of them end up here because they are just worn out."

That story made me realize the same is true with people. When I think about the leaders I know, good leaders who are no longer leading, I realize that a few of them had been in wrecks of some kind. But the vast majority had just worn down. Life seems to grow increasingly difficult, and none of us escape the daily grind. However, I've noticed that people tend to respond differently to identical pressures. That has led me to this conclusion:

Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends upon what you are made of.

There are several skills that, if cultivated, will allow you to face the same stressors you face today and be better for the experience.

The Ability to See the Big Picture
If you can't see what you are doing now as part of a long-range goal, you'll wear out. Imagine how long an athlete would be able to endure the pain of practice if they couldn't see the game in their mind's eye. Imagine how long a farmer would endure the hot sun of summer toil if he could not envision the harvest of fall.

The Ability to Defuse Worry
I'm convinced that it's not the work of life, but the worry of life that robs so many of their strength and breaks down their resolve. The only surefire remedy for worry is confidence.

Worry consists of creating mental pictures of what you do not want to happen. Confidence is creating mental pictures of what you want to happen.

Any golfer who has ever stood on one side of a water hazard thinking, don't hit it in the water, don't hit it in the water, can describe the result of the former. You'll be going wading very shortly! Good golfers have learned the knack of shaking off the last shot, good or bad, and approaching the next one with confidence. The same goes for leaders.

The Willingness to Quit Seeking Security
A ship that never leaves the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for. Too often we are devastated by failure that could have almost been predicted. The willingness to make mistakes, lots of them, is one of the prices we must pay for the advancement of a worthy cause.

The Ability to Gauge When Enough's Enough
No one expects their car to run forever without stopping to fill the fuel tank, but when it comes to our physical body, we foolishly refuse to stop when it's time to rest, refuel and recreate. I believe that too much of the wearing down I see is self-inflicted.

The Wisdom to Choose Your Associates
Most of us have far more choices than we think when it comes to the company we keep. Even when we must work with negative people, we can choose to avoid being reduced to their level. Life is hard enough without having to go through it with negative, critical or lazy people.

Ground down or polished up? The choice is really yours to determine.

Creating Your Character Is Like an Artist Creating a Sculpture by Jim Rohn

Could creating your character be likened to an artist creating a sculpture? In my opinion, I believe that character is not something that just happens by itself, any more than a chisel can create a work of art without the hand of an artist guiding it. In both instances, a conscious decision for a specific outcome has been made. A conscious process is at work. Character is the result of hundreds and hundreds of choices you make that gradually turn who you are, at any given moment, into who you want to be. If that decision-making process is not present, you will still be somebody. You will still be alive, but may have a personality rather than a character.

Character is not something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. In fact, because you weren’t born with it, it is something that you must take responsibility for creating. I don’t believe that adversity by itself builds character and I certainly don’t think that success erodes it. Character is built by how you respond to what happens in your life. Whether it’s winning every game or losing every game. Getting rich or dealing with hard times. You build character out of certain qualities that you must create and diligently nurture within yourself. Just like you would plant and water a seed or gather wood and build a campfire. You’ve got to look for those things in your heart and in your gut. You’ve got to chisel away in order to find them. Just like chiseling away the rock in order to create the sculpture that previously existed only in your imagination.

But do you want to know the really amazing thing about character? If you are sincerely committed to making yourself into the person you want to be, you’ll not only create those qualities but you’ll continually strengthen them. And you will recreate them in abundance even as you are drawing on them every day of your life. Just like the burning bush in the biblical book of Exodus, the bush burned but the flames did not consume it. Character sustains itself and nurtures itself even as it is being put to work, tested, and challenged. And once character is formed, it will serve as a solid, lasting foundation upon which to build the life you desire.

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