Probably the greatest example of persistence is Abraham Lincoln. If you want to learn about somebody who didn’t quit, look no further. But is persistence the only lesson we can learn from one of the greatest presidents america has ever had? I don’t think so.
Here is a sketch of Lincoln’s road to the White House and underneath it is a brief comment on some other things I think we can learn from him.
1816: His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
1818: His mother died.
1831: Failed in business.
1832: Ran for state legislature – lost.
1832: Also lost his job – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
1834: Ran for state legislature again – won.
1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – defeated.
1840: Sought to become elector – defeated.
1843: Ran for Congress – lost.
1846: Ran for Congress again – this time he won – went to Washington and did a good job.
1848: Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state – rejected.
1854: Ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
1856: Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – got less than 100 votes.
1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again – again he lost.
1860: Elected president of the United States.
Lincoln himself once said “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure” For a man who lived the life just narrated above, its clear he was speaking from experience and that he lived his own advice. I however believe that his discontent with failure not only moved him to try again, but also to learn, un-learn and re-learn certain things.
Ordinarily, we’ve been taught that persistent was the major tool he used in his life and somehow we have believed it was the only tool. But I discovered that persistence alone can’t achieve much. A wise man commented once that “it is foolishness to do the same thing the same way and expect a different result”. If you persistently do things the wrong way, you’ll consistently be wrong and you’d consistently fail.
I discovered that lincoln was a progressive learner. He learnt new strategies and increased in wisdom. And though he was persistent in his pursuits, he understood the importance of growth. He didn’t allow failure at one exam stop him from preparing for another. He kept on advancing and progressing, seeking greater things. Contesting for higher positions showed that he didn’t remain at one level of development as what is required to contest at stage 2 is always higher than that at stage 1.
We need opportunities for success; and opportunity comes to everyone. But opportunity alone is not enough, as opportunity without corresponding strength, ability and preparation would end up being a waste. Benjami disreali said that “the secret to success is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes”.
There is such a thing as active patience(AP). Its something we all have to learn. It is what makes persistence profitable. It means doing the required things while being persistent. It is taking the bull by the horn and not just waiting for life to swing luck your way. It is understanding that opportunity is attracted like a magnet to those actively positioned for it. This is what distinguished lincoln and what made him a success. Whether you fail or succeed, there is always something you need to do to maintain or repeat success. Success is never automatic.
So the message today is this: keep learning, growing, and improving. Acquire new strategies, there are times when winning strategies fail (for the first time). Don’t just relax and call it persistence. Great men who make impact and register themselves in life’s history books are always on the offensive. Lincoln was a learner; you should be too.
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