Combining the Key Ingredients of Success

by Eric Wright

Over the last few years I have had the privilege of interviewing some of the most significant leaders on the Space Coast – from CEO’s and entrepreneurs to members of Congress and senators. In nearly every one of these remarkable individuals, you quickly detect two seemingly incompatible qualities orbiting around the nucleus of their character.

One is a sense of courage and confidence, a decisive awareness of who they are and what they can and want to do. They possess a seemingly laser sharp focus on their goals and an unflappable determination to get there.

The other quality they hold the patent on, almost without exception, is a humble awareness of their own foibles and limitations. They have an ability to share credit and creative leadership in solving problems or setting direction. They’re quick to acknowledge the contributions of others, while owning mistakes themselves.

Finding the Balance

Many view the qualities of humility and self confidence like oil and water, completely irreconcilable. But those who rise to the top have discovered that like the poles on a magnet, they actually attract each other. Or, we could say they are like the two rails of a train track, providing balance and direction. However, being derailed on one side or the other is always a possibility.

True humility can be surrendered to a poor self image and negative self-talk, just as confidence and determination can give way to arrogance and condescension. I discovered an illustration of how these qualities are blended together in a surprising way.

It’s Not Either/Or

Several years back, a friend gave me a replica of a Japanese Samurai sword. I did a little research on why these weapons are so unique, so valuable and so effective. To create these blades ancient Japanese craftsmen had to forge a sword that was hard enough to retain a sharp edge, but at the same time flexible enough not to be brittle. They discovered that hard steel could preserve a razor edge but would often break in a fight. Soft steel, however, wasn’t brittle but would easily dull. Herein lay the challenge.

These metallurgical geniuses discovered how to combine the two. Multiple sheets of hard and soft steel were heated, folded and pummeled together over and over again through a lengthy forging process until they have up to 33,000 micro-thin laminations of hard and soft metal. The end result is a weapon with extreme pliability and a blade that will retain a finely honed edge.

It’s a Combination of the Two

Life has a way of performing a similar function in our experience. Through the heat and hammering of both victories and defeats, we learn the discipline of humility and confidence. I use the word “discipline,” because maintaining that balance doesn’t come naturally to any of us.

It takes effort to develop and sustain them, yet these qualities enable us to see the need to change and to grow, in business and in relationships.

In October, the founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, and Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, died. Both were innovators and both made an unforgettable mark in their field. Though Davis took the Raiders to three Super Bowls, in the last 10 years they lost almost 60 percent of their games. What had worked for Davis in the 70’s failed him in the new millennium. Jobs, on the other hand, was adapting, innovating and introducing products, which others scrambled to imitate, right up until his untimely death.

A respected author and speaker, Eric Wright is the assignment editor for Spacecoast Business magazine and the founder and pastor of Journey Church in Suntree.