Abraham Lincoln is widely considered to be the most admired president in the history of the United States. Listening to the Gettysburg address or talking to your high school teachers, you’d think he could do no wrong. Except he could, and he did. Let’s take a look at Honest Abe’s lifetime record:
- Failed in business (age 22)
- Defeated in legislative run (age 23)
- Failed in business, again (age 24)
- Sweetheart died (age 26)
- Had a nervous breakdown (age 27)
- Defeated for Speaker of the House (age 29)
- Defeated for Elector (age 31)
- Defeated for Congress (age 34)
- Defeated for Congress (age 39)
- Defeated for Senate (age 46)
- Defeated for Vice President (age 47)
- Defeated for Senate (age 49)
Lincoln was elected president at the age of 51, by which time he had suffered 12 major defeats! A lot of people his age would have disappeared from public life and retired on a rural estate somewhere. But not Lincoln. He went on to shepherd the American Civil War to a satisfactory conclusion and was in great part responsible for abolishing slavery in the U.S. He was so beloved that we still celebrate his birthday and display his face everywhere. Just think where this country would be if he had been consumed by despair that success wasn’t coming quickly enough.
I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again
If you talk to any Fortune 500 CEO, you will get an earful of all of the mistakes and mishaps that occurred before they were able to reach their current level of achievement. The difference between high achievers and everyone else is that the high achievers keep getting back on the horse every time they fall off. They give themselves time to recover, they think through the mistake and learn from it, and then they move on to the next thing.
We’re struggling with a tough business climate right now. You are likely trying a lot of ways to get ahead in your organization, and many of them won’t work. But by recognizing that defeat is all part of the process, you will be able to sustain your motivation until your next big break.