Show #414: Withstanding the liquor of success with Steve Smith

Show #414: Withstanding the liquor of success with Steve Smith

We all want success in life, business, finances, relationships, health and more. But success can often have a high cost, namely in our peace, contentment, and happiness. Steve Smith has his own story as a rising mega-church pastor and the toll it took on his life. Today he’s now walked with thousands of C-level executives, business owners, mega-church pastors and high achievers, who have had aspects of crash-and-burn in their lives and businesses. What has he learned from this and how can we pursue success…healthily? Steve actually sat in the studio with Kevin and a candid, lively, in-depth and profound discussion took place. This is a must-listen-to from Ziglar’s True Performance Show.

Hi, everyone, this is Kevin and this is Ziglar’s True Performance Show, episode 414. In today’s show I am interviewing Steve Smith, author of Inside Job. Steve has worked with legions of high-level business people who have achieved massive success…but from it, had significant personal crashing and burning.

My question is…can we achieve great success in our work, and do it healthily? And if so, how do we go about it differently in our pursuit?

Steve has a seminar degree and pastored churches in Kentucky, North Carolina, and the Netherlands. As a speaker, spiritual director, author and companion, Steve offers soul care and spiritual direction through individual and group sessions and his published resources, such as his new book, Inside Job - Doing the work within the work. Steve is married to Gwen and has four adult sons and three daughters-in-law.

Steve is an amazing guy who loves life and loves loving people.

Today, then, we’re just going to dive in to our interview!

Steve, what a gift to have you on Ziglar’s True Performance Show! I get to interview some of the world’s most amazing and influential people, and get to know them personally in the process. Seldom do I get to bring to this audience someone I already know! Though I’m sure in this time I’ll learn something new. Brother, thank you for being here!

>>Listen to the show

Steve, before we dive into the book and the dangers of success, give us the CliffsNotes of your own story that led you to not just this book, but in 2000 to founding “The Potter’s Inn,” a physical retreat center high in the Rocky Mountains. That’s not merely writing a book, which is a big accomplishment, it’s actually devoting your life to it!

>>Listen to Steve’s responses on the show

The back cover of the book starts off with this intro:

"Effective leaders work very hard to succeed, but often at the cost of their own souls. They have to keep themselves emotionally and spiritually healthy to survive success – to keep their humanity intact."

And you mention giving focus to "The life-giving qualities of building character rather than the life-draining values of power, fame, fortune and position."

I’ll start off with the big question and get it on the table and out of the way first…the question aspiring people like myself and the True Performance audience have: Can you strive for massive success, and achieve it…and maintain your soul? Or are you saying we need to let go of the pursuit of power, fame, fortune and position?

>>Hear Steve’s comments on the program

I want to read from your book, page 13, where you cite the writing of J.B. Phillips:

>>Hear Kevin read from the book on the show

So, the positives he describes, Steve…to the degree of success I’ve achieved…I’m very, very grateful for. I appreciate making an abundance of money. I am immensely grateful to have influence with others and matter to other lives. I’m thrilled to work in my giftings and talents. And…I still desire and feel called to more.

But then, I’ve also witnessed people, men especially, who have achieved very high levels of success, and it HAS taken its toll on their character…health…relationships. Seems very difficult to withstand power and acclaim, and not being in need of anything from anyone. But to what J.B. Phillips wrote, “He had to stop.” What does that mean?!

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So…after my wife, my best friend on this planet is Dr. Randy James, who you know intimately and call dear friend as well. He’s one of the most devout, righteous, seeking people I know. He seeks to truly serve in his work, and also provide for his family. A great concern of his is…the issue of aspiration. Specifically, Christian aspiration. Can you fully devote yourself to the Lord’s work, and also seek to succeed in work that often comes with financial gain, and be righteous?

>>Listen to the show

OK. I want to dive into a specific subject you focus on in the book... “exposing the myth of balance and instead embracing the principle of rhythm.”

You go further to state, “The rhythm established by God.”

Talk to us about that. I think many of us are so enmeshed in our cultural norms that the “rhythms established by God” are…we’re blind to…

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You have a segment in the book about “spiritual posing.” You cite a mega-church pastor and, as you surveyed the staff, they shared testimony of him that was…terrible. Not even that he was necessarily a bad person or evil person, but that he was far less than...loving and caring. You cite he had “exquisite speaking gifts” and was compelling, which for a leader, is necessary!

If you have a great anointing and message, but can’t reach people, you are moot.

But what impacted me was getting the truth from this guy’s coworkers. Just yesterday, I had a staff retreat with a group of staff at your retreat, Potter’s Inn!

We went through DISC personality profiles we purchased through my dad, Dan Miller, at What amazing resources.

But your story made me think of “being exposed for who we really are.” In truth, wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t you love to bug your friends and family and hear what they really think and say about you? And be able to adjust accordingly? It’s like one of my fave movies, Groundhog Day, where he gets to live the day over and over until he learns what is really of value and merit, and lives a good day and life and benefits from it. In the spirit of Zig’s foundational quote, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

So what about this, Steve? How to go about getting true feedback before having to resign out of pressure from our failures?

>>Listen to Steve’s comments on the show

Chapter 8, page 122. “The Leader’s Limits.” Saying no in order to say yes.

Steve, you know some of my personal story. Having limits is…contrary to my programming.

Three nights ago we were texting back and forth, here is the dialogue (it was 11pm):

Steve Smith:
Go to bed! I bet you're also watching Olympics.

Kevin Cell:
Nope. No TV. Just back from church, picking up part of my family from a missions trip, and they brought back a four-year-old little girl who is a new member of the family
long story
will take me a bit to wind down
my wife is helping her get to sleep...she's pretty scared

Steve Smith:
Lord, have mercy.... Read the chapter on understanding your limits!!!! Prayers!

So…tell us. My internal wiring is that there are no limits. No boundaries. You do more than anyone else, you do what it takes to make it happen. Having limits is…weakness. In looking to fuel myself, I look for intake of inspiration mainly.

That’s not a claim, that’s an admission.

So now…school me. Admonish me. Tell me what I’m missing.

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Self-control is marshalling energy wisely.

Chapter 10, understanding the resilient life.

Brene’ Brown, who, to date, is the only person to not grant me an interview -- but a primary platform of hers is…resilience.


1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape;
2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Being an overcomer.

You list out some key areas where it’s necessary to have resilience. In all your work, what is the area in which you see most otherwise-successful people fall victim in regards to NOT being resilient?

>>Listen to Steve Smith on the show

You also list eight great virtues. Same question, what virtue do you see as void in successful people most often?

>>Hear Steve’s responses on the show