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Dear Leader,

Ground Down or Polished Up?
By Dr. 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 sure-fire 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 its time to rest, refuel, and
    recreate.  I believe that too much of the wearing down I see is

    * 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.

Your friend,

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'Leadership Wired' available at

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