“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other” – Abraham Lincoln
Failure Is Not The End
He failed in business in 1831. He was defeated for the state legislature seat in 1832. He attempted another business in 1833 and failed. His fiancée died in 1835. In 1836, he suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1843 he ran for congress and was defeated. He tried and lost again in 1848. Next, he tried running for the Senate in 1855. He lost. The following year he ran for vice-president and lost. In 1859, he ran for the Senate again and was defeated. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States.
Spirit of Endurance
Lincoln is a case study in endurance. The dogged determination to stay on course even when the winds of failure blow loud and heavy. This spirit of endurance spread to those around him. In a letter to General Ulysses G. Grant dated August 17th, 1864, he encouraged him, “I have seen your dispatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog grip, and chew & choke, as much as possible.”
School of Failure
No one makes it through life successfully without perseverance. The winds, waves, and storms of life are guaranteed to rage against our dreams. Adversity is the tool that tests our dream while preparing the necessary character in us to live in our dream once it becomes real. I believe Lincoln’s ability to lead well as President, especially in the tough times, was directly attributed to his prior years of failure. The school of failure gave Lincoln a Ph.D. in presidential leadership. Failure was the fuel and fodder pushing him onward. Similar to Lincoln, the challenge is whether we will advance through the adversity or retreat in defeat. Another president, Richard Nixon, once said, “A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.”
Quitting is an Option
Contrary to popular belief that quitting is not an option, I believe it is often the first and most tempting option on the table in the face of adversity. Choosing to fold or throw in the towel is a natural response. It’s the path of least resistance. The reasoning behind quitting is self-preservation. Its allure is the insulation from further failure. We choose to stop moving, believing it is the best option never to lose or fail again. When stagnancy becomes a strategy for dealing with adversity, we remain grounded in our past. In doing so we can never soar into what the future holds. We create barriers in our minds that sabotage our dreams. Imbued with endurance, we can break through mental barriers, refuse the allure of self-preservation, choose to row the boat of our lives upstream, and press on towards our dream coming true.
The Value of Endurance
Why is endurance a valuable commodity in the economy of life? Let’s consider three reasons:
First, endurance sustains momentum. Through every failure, I believe Lincoln never lost his momentum. We all need momentum to achieve our dreams. In referencing the power of momentum, best-selling author Andy Andrews says, “When one has momentum, the results of any action are greater than reality says they should be.” Without momentum, the possibility of achieving a dream grows dim as life’s challenges continually thwart every effort. With endurance, momentum is sustained despite negative circumstances.
Second, it cultivates discipline. Achieving a dream does not happen accidentally or incidentally. It’s intentional. Discipline, cultivated by endurance, creates the intentionality necessary for dream realization. Lincoln defined discipline as “choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” The bridge that links endurance and discipline is “what we want most.” Regrettably, most of what we want is immediate and fleeting. The “I want it now” mentality baits us to settle for life’s low hanging fruit instead of reaching for what is greater and lasting but takes longer to achieve. How is what you want now getting in the way of what you want most?
Finally, endurance irrigates our resolve. Over 92% of resolutions fail. Many of them never make it out of January. Let’s face it, at some point this year, your enthusiasm and motivation will dry up because of the heat of life’s trials. The value found in endurance is similar to an irrigation water system that waters plants in hot seasons or arid conditions. This irrigation keeps the plants growing despite the external circumstances.
Endurance will keep you going steadily but surely when you feel like quitting. It will uphold your verve and passion in the difficult seasons. I believe endurance irrigated Lincoln’s resolve to move forward each time he met failure on his path to the presidency.
Final Thought: The results that emanate from endurance are astounding. In Lincoln’s case, it took him to the highest office in the land. For others, endurance will take them to a better financial life. Yet for some, it will carry them to a fitter, healthier lifestyle. Whatever the dream may be, with endurance, you can get to your destiny.
Keep on keeping on!