Candidates for any office whether small-town mayor or president of the United States are ideal when they possess four personal qualities: good values, good decision making skill, being right on the issues, and having a spine of steel.

When push comes to shove values are always the basis of good decisions, while skill in making good decisions comes from training and much practice.  And being right on the issues requires using the common sense that most of us have.  But even though one has these qualities in spades, without the toughness to always stand one’s ground they will matter little.

Values are what define us.  And how we reveal them in our daily living while we handle myriad difficulties whether they involve our finances, our relationships or our health.  Or something else.  We show the values we have by how we handle each of them one by one.

Skill in good decision making is usually learned.  Those running an organization or a business can obtain a great deal of practice, and if they evaluate their own performance objectively they can quickly learn from the results of their good and bad decisions.  Over time they will become quite skilled at making decisions to produce the results they want.

Being right of the issues is mostly common sense.  It is using factual information—not emotions—to make decisions.  And being aware of the difference between the two.  It is using valid quantitative data to evaluate whether one approach is better than another.  It is thinking of the long term benefit to America not the short term and immediate which often is harmful.  It is thinking about other Americans rather than one’s own parochial interests.

Toughness in approach is not a quality one is born with.  It is developed over time.  One becomes tough only by having toughening experiences.  This principle is in nature:  The trunk of an oak growing on the rocky side of a mountain with little water is much tougher than the trunk of a banana tree growing in the fertile soil of a tropical rainforest.  One develops calluses on the bottom of one’s feet by walking or running, not by sitting on one’s butt.

Toughening experiences can be of many types.  Most are of the nature of financial, family, medical or business.  It might be the indignity of always being short of money in a society that judges each of us all too often on that resource. Or it could be a divorce, difficult children, or a death in the family.  Or it could be life threatening illnesses, or the continuing disabilities which made both Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Charles Krauthammer quite tough.  Or it could be running a small business with the always difficult problems of cash flow, product quality, dependable and productive employees and where the temptation to cut corners to increase profits or to even survive is always present. The more of these experiences one has over a longer period of time the tougher that person will become.  Which is why all else being equal someone older is usually tougher. Their years of life if lived aggressively would generally allow them to have more toughening experiences.  It is often called wisdom.