If you feel disappointed, frustrated, or even defeated by the current events in our country, perhaps this story of amazing perseverance in overcoming defeat will inspire and encourage you.
This story may supply you with hope and inspiration. It may also motivate you to show courage in the face of great odds and obstacles. As it has been said, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”.
I’d like to point out 2 other old sayings, “nothing worth having will come easily”, and “persistence pays”. To me these statements mean 1) achieving what I want when I desire may take some additional or even extraordinary effort, and 2) if I stay with something long enough with determination, I just may be able to get there even when difficult.
Persistence is just that, continuing to put forth a focused effort to attain a goal. Abraham Lincoln’s journey to becoming who many consider one of the great presidents of the United States illustrates an incredible example of persistence. Lincoln was one of the most influential American presidents in history. His accomplishments, especially during critical times, set the destiny and direction of our country. They overcame significant challenges faced along the journey, which had to have been discouraging, frustrating, and sometimes felt like a defeat to Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections before becoming the 16th president of the United States. You can find the full record of his life in several historical sources. Here are some of Lincoln’s notable defeats that I found:
in 1831 he failed in business.
In 1832, he ran for a seat in the Illinois State Legislature and lost. Two years later, he won and was re-elected three times.
In 1833 he failed a second in business.
in 1836 he reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown.
In 1838, he aspired to become speaker of the state legislature and lost.
In 1840, he sought to become an elector in the Electoral College and lost.
In 1843, he ran for the House of Representatives and lost. When he ran again in 1846, he won.
In 1854, he ran for the U.S. Senate and lost.
In 1856, he sought the vice-presidential nomination at this party’s national convention and got fewer than 100 votes.
In 1858, he ran for the U.S. Senate again and lost again.
In 1860, he ran for president and won.
History was dramatically altered because of Lincoln’s refusal to quit. He stayed true to his ideals, his beliefs, and his vision for America. What if he had stopped after his first defeat?
President Lincoln is what you would call “someone who was very persistent”. The enablement of persistence requires courage. Fear loves to become the roadblock to courage. We all know that emotion all too well. Emotions emanate from your autonomic nervous system (ANS) and largely cannot be controlled like your somatic nervous system. Your somatic nervous system comprises your muscle and skeletal system and you can control it. Emotions are the output resulting from what your mind consumes.
As I wrote in my book, Inspired Selling, much like a computer, you have the hardware (somatic) and software (autonomic) components. This is a simplification of a complex part of your being but illustrates a point that I feel is particularly important. If you take valuable information into your brain, it is more likely that good emotions will come out of your autonomic nervous system. Similar to the garbage in – garbage out analogy used when referring to computer input and output, the same concept applies to your ANS.
So, how do you effectively renew your mind to reduce the fear of failure, which you must somehow overcome to be persistent? The simple answer is to build confidence through positive input into your mind. One method of doing that is to build a life based on continuous improvement and the practice of frequently stepping out of your comfort zone. If afraid when doing this, the best approach is to look fear square in the face and walk right toward it. It doesn’t mean you won’t fail, but it does mean you are confronting your fear. I believe that if you continually confront your fears you will become more comfortable doing so. If you become more comfortable with confronting fear, you create yourself a “new normal” way of living and proceeding.
Courage is being able to accept failure as part of success. By using failure as the great teacher that it is, you learn and grow. Lincoln used significant failure to learn how to succeed in becoming elected President. If you are one to reflect, now may be an appropriate time to reflect on failures to determine what you have learned from them.
I know, as you may also, from experience, that not all people have a high tolerance for failure. Those individuals likely have challenges baked into their ANS that prevent them from being effective as leaders. Leaders will wisely and lovingly foster a culture that encourages risk-taking and not being afraid to fail. When people are not afraid to fail for fear of retribution, they become more confident, innovative, and creative. Often, those three characteristics can create the differentiators to winning and achieving goals.
Do you ever get stuck and seem to not be getting where you want to go? When difficult things happen, people often become paralyzed and fail to act when needed. Never before have I seen that more than during this pandemic. We all get stuck, but we need to understand what it takes to get us unstuck. We need to know what got us there in the first place. Don’t stay stuck. Ask for help. Get out of the rut and get going again. The obstacles will always be there. Review Abraham Lincoln’s failures again. Then, ponder his brilliant illustration of the power in refusing to quit!