It’s human nature to get cocky when you’re on a winning streak and to get discouraged when you’re losing. Each of these is a problem if you let it go unchecked.

When you’re cocky, you tend to lose focus and allow yourself to get distracted. You also believe that continued success is inevitable, so you stop planning and you stop preparing. We’ve all seen overconfident teams who lose focus, lower the intensity of their practices, and get beaten by the underdog.

When you’re discouraged, you tend to feel sorry for yourself and to blame your failures on the people and events around you. “If the economy was better, my business wouldn’t have failed.” you say. The danger here is that you are so focused on things outside of your control that you don’t focus on the things that you actually can do something about.

The damage done by cockiness or discouragement is amplified when you are a leader because your behavior sets the example for the people who follow you. One of the most difficult challenges all leaders face is to stay humble in the face of success and to remain focused in the face of failure.

Here is an ancient story I share with my clients to help them stay grounded no matter how well or how poorly things are going right now:

One day King Solomon decided to humble his trusted counselor, Benaiah ben Yehoyada. King Solomon said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for the Sukkot celebration, which gives you six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth, Your Highness,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”

“It has magic powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

The months passed and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorer quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who was rolling up the shabby carpet that contained his wares. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

“In fact, I have,” replied the old man. Benaiah watched him take a plain wooden ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide grin.

That night the entire city celebrated the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. “Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small wooden ring and declared, “Here it is, Your Majesty!”

As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The craftsman had written four words on the ring: This too shall pass.

This story is a reminder that good times don’t last forever, so it’s important to stay humble and plan ahead. Bad times will soon fade as well, so we must stay positive and focused on the things that are within our control.

So, the next time you find yourself getting a bit too cocky or a bit too mopey, remember: this too shall pass.

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