Success is 10 percent Inspiration

By | July 26, 2018

[July 26, 2018]  … and 90 percent perspiration.  This famous quote is by Thomas Edison, a man often described as America’s “greatest inventor.”1  Great leaders inspire!  They also understand that providing inspiration is only part of the formula and that working to see that inspiration achieves real results is where the hard work really happens.

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th-century American poet, philosopher, and essayist

Emerson had it right because, without inspiration, ordinary people will only do ordinary things.  But what he understood and made clear in his later writings was that it takes more than inspiration for people to take their passion to the next level and achieve something of greatness.  It takes focus, hard work, resilience, and patience to see their efforts through to the end.

I personally have found many young people who have a burning desire to make things right in the world.  Many are dissatisfied with the injustices they see and the wrongs that never seem to be righted.  What these young folks don’t have is the willingness to actually do something that will result in concrete achievements.  They would rather post passionate words on the Internet through social media and whine about what could never be.

These young people have failed themselves because they have failed in their personal dreams.  Why they are unwilling to actually make the effort to find solutions instead of complaining about them is something that would fill a psychologist’s notebook and already fills shelves with self-help books.

There is a key leader lesson to be learned here.  Leaders can inspire and the skills required to do so are not easily come by.  It requires experience and persistence.  But what really matters is the more advanced ability to see this through to the logical conclusion.  That is hard, often frustrating, and can be maddening when results are slow to come.  Inspiration plus perspiration equals success.


1.      “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” – Thomas Edison:

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “Success is 10 percent Inspiration

  1. Yusaf from Texas

    I too had grandparents that helped me with my life’s guiding principles. They instilled into me that hard work was the key to doing well in this world and I stuck to it. They were right!

  2. Dennis Mathes

    My grandmother always told me to never complain about anything. It made me look small and powerless. I guess most Millenials didn’t have as smart a grandmother as me. Fortunately, I took her advice. You would be amazed at how much this helped me in my career and my personal life.

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      I too had a wonderful grandmother – we called her “bigmama” – that gave us all great practical advice on how to do well in the world.

  3. Tracey Brockman

    Thanks, General Satterfield for your way of saying what is needed. You don’t pull any punches, either.

  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Not that long ago I really believed that all it took was the leader skill to motivate and inspire people. From that point, it was up to them to make things happen. Since reading these pages at your leader blog, I’ve discovered that there is a whole lot more and difficult things that make a real leader. Hard work is one of them and can never be overlooked.

  5. Forrest Gump

    The quotes you give in your blog posts are spot on, so thanks. I also like the idea that a different idea is discussed every day in order to keep things fresh. Appreciate your efforts here at the Leader Maker leadership blog.

  6. Kenny Foster

    A good topic for those who are just beginning their journey into leadership positions. I wish that I’d had this sort of access to both educational material on leadership and a comment section to ask questions.

  7. Mike Baker

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield for a look into the requirements for good leadership. Have a great day.

  8. Army Captain

    Another good blog post on a subject that I’ve been talking about for years. It takes a lot to be a great leader and one of them is the inspiration-hardwork effort.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      Thank you Army Captain for confirming this is the stuff leaders are discussing.

    2. Eric Coda

      😉 I too appreciate your confirmation. Thanks, Army Captain.

  9. Martin Shiell

    Thanks for a timely, educational article today, Gen. Satterfield.

  10. Doug Smith

    Thomas Edison’s quote tells it all. If you are a leader with a vision but unwilling to do the hard work required to make it come about, then you are not a good leader.

    1. Georgie M.

      I agree with you Doug that these quotes are right on target.

  11. Janna Faulkner

    Good article today about a topic rarely discussed. The inspiration part we like and discuss but the work effort to make it happen is not talked about much because it is hard. No surprises here.

  12. Billy Kenningston

    I only wish I’d known this when I was younger. As a young leader I struggled and this was often the reason why. I could inspire (at least I think so) but then I just left the rest up to that person and rarely provided them with any assistance or guidance of any kind. More was required of me and I failed to provide it. Fortunately, I figured it out later.

  13. Joe Omerrod

    Leadership is difficult and this is another example of why that is the case. If you can inspire others to greatness, then you are a good leader. But if you can see to it that concrete results are achieved from it, then – and only then – are you are a great leader.

  14. Max Foster

    And folks you had better pay attention to this article. There is nothing about it that will mislead. Leaders do more than inspire (although that is very important). What leaders do is make sure that the internal motivation (provided by your inspiration) is translated into results. Leaders who do not produce results are failures.


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