Skills can go far, but what sustains a skill goes where skill alone cannot take you.
I have become slightly obsessed with the BBC Earth shows like Planet Earth and The Hunt. The latter is focused on following predators through their habitats to understand the challenges they face and how they must adapt and sharpen each of their unique skill sets in order to be successful, a.k.a., survive. As I watched a few episodes of it, I could not stop taking notes about what it really takes to be successful. These animals are clearly living different lives than human beings, but the values of success are evident across all species. Here are four lessons on success I learned from predators.
Lesson 1: Timing Perfects A Skill
I always thought if I had the right skills that life would just be easy for me. The thought that talent alone will carry you to success is only halfway true. You will find that you cannot make it far, or that you are limiting yourself by not supplementing your talent with another discipline. The cheetah is well known for its amazing speed and agility. In a straightforward race, no animal in the world can beat it. How often are we in straightforward races in life, though? Where we get the opportunity to use skill alone and see it end in victory? For a cheetah, 60% of their hunts end in failure and 90% of them die of starvation before they are two years old. This isn’t because their skills are lacking, it is because they fail to capitalize on their skill by adding to it. Their prey has adapted in agility and stamina and in order for the cheetah to be successful, it must supplement its speed with timing. Many of us rush to take things on like jobs or relationships or children, relying on our skill alone, but leaving patience behind is like the cheetah using all its energy before it gets close enough to the prey. Supplement your skills with timing and patience.
Lesson 2: Self-Discipline Supports Strength
Very similar to timing supplementing skills, self-discipline supports strength alone. Have you ever wondered why crocodiles in the wild are so still? When you see this, you are witnessing self-discipline in action. Since there are few ideal feeding times in the year, the crocodile conserves their energy and body movements to make their meal last between hunts, sometimes over the span of an entire year. They do this to sustain their incredible strength, which would not there without this exercise of self-discipline. If you have a useful skill but have not found out how to regulate and support it, it can devour you and impede your success. Sometimes self-discipline is not all internal. At times, useful self-discipline is the act of reaching out to another for support with the intention of moving forward in mind. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” Find your strength and support it with self-discipline and strategy.
Lesson 3: Willpower Drives Stamina
If we can learn what drives us inside, we will unlock the power of stamina. There are goals that we set merely to satisfy another person and we should not expect to accomplish those goals with passion. Those that encourage someone to set a goal out of their own heart should not expect a passionate pursuit either. On the other hand, true goals are set out of the desires of our heart. These are the goals that line up with our passion and ignite willpower, the driver of stamina. Stamina keeps us going when it seems like it is not possible to go on. We tap into a reserve supply of focus and energy when we are close to accomplishing a goal we are truly passionate about. For wild dogs, their heart’s desire is simple: survival. They can run at full speed for over 20 minutes in order to accomplish their goal. This kind of energy is not possible without the passionate pursuit driven by willpower. Stamina is what helps us trudge through when things are overwhelming. This is when we need that reserve power to keep us going. Stamina will not be associated without willpower. 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” When we are connected with our love, our will, no matter how hard we have to work at something, it will not feel like a burden.
Lesson 4: Perseverance Comes From Certainty
When we are certain of our skills, when we have exercised self-discipline, and when we have unlocked stamina, perseverance is our final partner. This trait can make you seem stubborn at times, but if you are fighting for a worthy cause, the stubbornness is admirable. Leopards have a reputation of beauty and intimidation. They are the only solitary predator on this list and that is a testament of their confidence. Despite their reputation and their excellent use of skill, 85% of their hunts are unsuccessful. They have mastered their skill and timing, exercised patience and self-discipline, and properly aligned their goal with their willpower, but they still fail 6 out of 7 times. When you are sure of your mission and when there are no improvements left to make, perseverance is born. We all face a time when we aren’t sure what else to do or what else to change. This is the prime opportunity to try and try again. The more you try, the more insight you have to make productive adjustments. Giving up is not an option if you want to achieve success. Perseverance is one of the vital traits required to succeed and you unlock it by your certainty. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Success is not earned by skill or talent alone, but in everything there is an underlying supporter and something that drives the skill. The drivers can be used in all situations where skill alone cannot always go. Finding the skills are important, but finding what sustains those skills is where you will find your own personal path to success.
The beautiful thing for us is we don’t have to go out and fend for ourselves all the time, we have others that can add to us and sharpen us. Could you exercise self-discipline today by reaching out for help in order to move forward?