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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," but 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 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.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free
monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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