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August 6, 1995

Structuring for Success

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As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. PROVERBS 27:17
Everybody wants success in life, but few people structure for it. They want all the benefits and trappings of success, but they’re not always willing to do the hard work necessary to achieve success.
In this verse, the writer of Proverbs rolls out a model for achieving success: having an iron-on-iron relationship with a peer that involves all of life, or at least enough facets of life to drive someone to authenticity.
In the world of teams and partners, we have more iron-on-feather, iron-on- wood, and iron-on-rubber associations than we have iron-on-iron relationships. Rather than being a mutual admiration society or collaboration between a leader and a follower, an iron-on-iron partnership results when two peers—two equals— develop a genuine, Christ-centered relationship. As a general rule, they don’t look up or down on each other. They have admiration, respect, and a healthy sense of fear and accountability for each other. And because of that, a sharp, chiseling effect happens over time that produces improvement and progress.
An iron-on-iron partnership is easy to define, but it’s hard to achieve. In order to work, it requires mutual transparency, accountability, support, correction, and friendship. Despite the effort needed, we can have these relationships in any season of life. They’re best if they’re between people whose lives overlap in several areas. For example, an iron-on-iron relationship with a friend from church who doesn’t know your family and doesn’t understand your work is OK, but it’s not as good as one with someone who attends your church, knows your spouse and children, and works in a similar position.
In other words, a friendship with a peer who sees you across the different categories of life and is willing to give you advice and correction across those categories is the most preferable kind of iron-on-iron relationship. It forces you to open yourself up to another person in a way that makes you very vulnerable. But according to Proverbs, it’s one of the best prescriptions for success in life.
What can you do to establish an iron-on-iron relationship with someone in your life?

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