Tag Archive for 'recovering from failure'

Small business survival lessons from Abraham Lincoln

Many years ago I discovered the list of failures and setbacks Abraham Lincoln endured in his life. When I first read the list I was overwhelmed by two emotions: 1) Sadness - that any one person would experience so many bad things; 2) Admiration - that anyone could have accomplished so much in the face of so much adversity.

Here’s a short list – there actually are several more – of the life challenges of Abraham Lincoln
• He failed in business in 1831.
• He was defeated for state legislator in ‘32.
• He tried another business in ‘33. It failed.
• His fiancee died in ‘35.
• He had a nervous breakdown in ‘36.
• In ‘43 he ran for Congress and was defeated.
• He tried again in ‘48 and was defeated again.
• He tried running for the Senate in ‘55. He lost.
• The next year he ran for Vice President and lost.
• In ‘59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated.
• In 1860 he was elected the16th President of the United States.

According to Gene Griessman, Lincoln scholar (www.presidentlincoln.com) and a member of my Brain Trust, in the nine years after critics completely wrote him off as a political player, Abraham Lincoln accomplished leadership feats and professional successes that were nothing short of heroic and for which he is still generally recognized as one of the two greatest American presidents.

Lincoln has taught us that the difference between history’s boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often simply the diligence and will to persevere.

As we enter 2009, the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday and a year that will definitely challenge our diligence and will, if you’re ever tempted to slump into a self-involved pity party, go back and re-read Lincoln’s failures and setbacks. This time you’ll feel two other emotions: 1) Shame - that you allowed yourself to lapse into a funk; 2) Renewed perseverance – now remembering that like Lincoln, as long as you’re alive, every new day that you show up to work on your business and life could be the day that you turn the corner.

So, what advice would President Lincoln offer small business owners about dealing with economic challenges? Gene Griessman offered a number of words of wisdom from Lincoln when he joined me recently on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. In addition to being a Lincoln scholar, Gene is also one of the world’s top Lincoln portrayers. I think you’ll benefit from hearing our conversation.

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