A Failure's Tale

Monday, September 20, 2010

Abraham Lincoln was a failure.

Actually, that statement is misleading. As we all know, Abraham Lincoln was a true success story. Furthermore, his failures have been greatly exaggerated, as I discovered after visiting the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois at the end of our vacation. (That's where President Lincoln and his family obligingly posed for the picture at the beginning of this post.)

Still, Honest Abe did have his share of setbacks.

He failed in business when the general store he bought with a partner couldn't compete with another store in town. (Legend says he failed twice, but he was only an employee of the first failed store.)

Instead of giving up, he changed careers and became a successful and well-respected lawyer.

He lost his first election for a seat in the Illinois legislature. (And won the next four.)

He won the race for the U.S. House of Representatives the only time he ran.

He lost his two bids to the U.S. Senate. Being a Senator must have been one of his ambitions, because he gave up a fifth term in the Illinois legislature (right after he was elected) to run for the Senate his first time.

Instead of giving up, he moved up, winning the election for U.S. President--twice.

Abraham Lincoln used his "failures" to achieve greater successes. Yes, his store failed, but he kept plugging along until he got the career he really wanted--law.

Yes, he never became a U.S. Senator, but his debates with Stephen A. Douglas brought him into the national spotlight and netted him an even greater prize.

So what was the secret to his success? A number of sources say it was his perseverance.

But I'm not convinced. I credit his thirst for knowledge instead. Lincoln had few opportunities to attend school, but he went when he could. He borrowed as many books as he could get his hands on and devoured them whenever he could find a spare minute. Like most lawyers of his day, he read law books on his own time and earned his license without a formal legal education.

And it wasn't his silver tongue that won people over. It was his understanding and logic and wit. Those are by-products of a good education (formal or informal), and he gained his through persistence.

So maybe it was his perseverance after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment