“While uncertain about his prospects in this first election, Lincoln made it clear that failure did not intimidate him. Should he lose, he had said when declaring his intention to run, he had been ‘too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.’ And yet, he forewarned, only after being defeated ‘some 5 or 6 times’ would he deem it ‘a disgrace’ and be certain ‘never to try it again.’ So, along with the uncertainty of whether his ambition would be realized was the promise of resilience.”
Lincoln and both Roosevelts are case studies in the growth mindset.
Failure? Just opportunities to get better.
As I read that, I was reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wisdom. Emerson was a contemporary of Lincoln. In fact, he delivered a moving eulogy included in his collected works.
In Self-Reliance, he captures the spirit of a Lincoln-like hero when he tells us: “If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, that he should be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him,—and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history.”
I’m also reminded of Seth Godin’s wisdom from The Icarus Deception where he tells us that the mark of the deepest sense confidence is the willingness to go all in AND be willing to say, “This might not work.”
And, finally, the last line there about “the promise of resilience” reminds me of Grit. Remember what Angela Duckworth describes as the four key aspects of Grit we can Optimize? 1. Passion + 2. Practice + 3. Purpose + 4. Hope.
Fierce ambition + grit? That’s a winning formula.
How many times are YOU willing to fail?