Tag Archive for 'failures'

President Lincoln’s leadership continues to impress

This month marks the 206th birthday of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln’s life and hard times continue to inspire generation after generation of leaders and followers so much that 150 years after his death Honest Abe is still one of the most important individuals in the history of the United States.

Lincoln’s story is especially important for small business owners. Every day along the business ownership continuum, from startup to locking up for the last time, Main Street merchants can draw strength and inspiration from the uncomplicated and honest witness of Lincoln’s character.

lincoln-memorial-2464_1280

CC Photo via Pixabay

But, ironically, beyond his leadership record, we’re perhaps more inspired by how he persevered in the face of painful adversity and professional failures. Consider this partial list of Lincoln’s life challenges:

•  Failed in business in 1831 and 1833

•  Defeated for state legislator in 1832

•  Fiancee died in 1835

•  Had a nervous breakdown in 1836

•  Ran for Congress in 1843 and ’48; lost both races

•  Ran for the Senate in 1855 and ’59; lost both races

•  Ran for Vice President in 1856 and lost

•  Buried two of his four beloved sons

•  Elected President in 1860 as America’s house divided and dissolved into “a great civil war”Reading this list, one is overwhelmed by two emotions:

1.  Sadness - that any one person would experience so many unfortunate things;

2.  Admiration - that in the face of such adversity, anyone could accomplish so much.

Nine years after critics wrote him off as a political player, Lincoln accomplished leadership feats and professional successes that were nothing short of heroic. And for these, history recognizes him as one of America’s greatest presidents.

As 2015 unfolds, if you’re ever tempted to slump into a self-involved pity party because the marketplace licked the red off your candy, go back and reread Lincoln’s failures and setbacks. This time you might feel two other emotions:

1.   Shame - that you allowed yourself to lapse into a funk;

2.   Renewed perseverance – now realizing that, like Lincoln, as long as you’re alive, every new day you show up to work on your business and life could be the day you turn the corner and win the war.

Lincoln taught us that often the difference between bold accomplishment and painful setback is the courage, character and diligence to persevere.

Write this on a rock …

There is no better model of courage, character and perseverance than Abraham Lincoln. Let his life inspire yours.

Until Next Time: Learn from your failures

Billy Joel is a pretty fair musician and singer, but he’s a world-class songwriter. He and I were born on the same day, so perhaps that’s why I like his words. One of my favorite Joel lyrics is from the song, “Second Wind,” “You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes, but they’re the only things that you can truly call your own.”

We’re not likely to learn much when we succeed because we think it’s a result of our being so smart. Who wants to think about lessons when there’s so much self-congratulating to do, right?

When we fail, we have more time to reflect on what happened because there’s less celebrating. Use the time wisely; don’t wallow around feeling sorry for yourself. Claim your failures. Remember what Billy said, “… they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.”

All of the great minds of history were well acquainted with failure. There are so many examples of world-changing discoveries that resulted from perseverance in the ace of bitter, demoralizing failures. Thomas Edison is said to have observed that, “Failure is successfully identifying what doesn’t work.” What if your last failure is actually a discovery of something that no one else knows?

In one of my favorite books, The Words Lincoln Lived By, by my friend, Gene Griessman, I found this Lincoln quote on adversity, “I find quite as much materials for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful.”

So, it’s official: You learn more from your failures than from your successes. And if you don’t believe me and Billy, you have to believe Honest Abe.

I’ll leave you with the chorus to Billy’s song. “Don’t forget your second wind. Sooner or later you’ll feel that momentum kick in.”

Think of these words next time you fail.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.




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