I saw a video yesterday that really stopped me in my tracks. I will paraphrase the video a bit to help tell the story in an efficient manner.
This man was born in 1809.
In 1816 at the age of 7, he was forced to work because his family was expelled.
In 1818 he lost his mother.
In 1828 he lost his sister.
In 1831 he opened his first business and ended up going bankrupt.
In 1832 he stood in the legislative elections and lost.
In 1833 he borrowed money to open another business and went bankrupt again.
In 1835 he met a wonderful woman, they fall in love, get engaged, and she dies.
In 1836 he fell into a deep depression and remained bedridden for 6 consecutive months.
In 1836 he gets up and runs for the legislative election and loses again.
In 1840 he presented himself as an elector and lost
In 1842 he met the woman he would end his life with, they fall in love, they get engaged, and have four children. They go on to lose 3 of those 4 children.
In 1843 he appeared again at Congress and loses.
In 1845 he appears at Congress and lost again.
In 1850 his last remaining son dies.
In 1854 he ran for the Senate and lost.
In 1856 he ran for Vice President and lost not even capturing 100 votes.
In 1858 he ran for Senate and lost again.
In 1860 he ran for President and was elected the 16th President of the United States!
Not only was he elected but he was elected for two terms but was assassinated at the beginning of his second term. He was one of the most respected and impactful presidents in the history of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln is best known for freeing the slaves. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Abraham Lincoln’s influence on the United States and the world cannot be disputed but perhaps the most amazing thing is that he ever had a chance to be President at all.
The number of challenges he overcame to become President is absolutely staggering. I know about a small sampling of those but even having read some biographies of him over time I didn’t realize how many doors shut in his face he didn’t let a single one sway him from his mission.
I listen to a ton of podcasts on entrepreneurship, leadership, and success. I also read a ton of books on those topics and if I had to boil down success in life to one word it would be grit. You could define that many ways but Lincoln’s life is basically a masterclass on grit. In life we all face opposition. For most people, losing the first election would’ve been the end of their political journey and they would’ve gone on to something else. Not Lincoln, I counted at least 8 political election losses before he had a victory. Without grit, he probably would’ve ended up selling shoes at the general store or working on his farm in quiet isolation but thanks to his grit and determination he changed our world.
I think so often in life we run from anything that challenges us or makes us feel bad. We’re told we’re not good at something and we give up. We’re told we can’t do something and we believe that person. We lose our job and we change careers. We fail at something and we give up. I think this is part of the natural tendency of humans but I feel like in today’s society life is so comfortable that it is even easier to slip into this type of mindset.
In fact, I think it is almost encouraged by how our society operates. We have gone so far toward political correctness that today it is hard to feel challenged. We want everything to be friendly to everyone. We don’t want to offend others. We don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. We don’t want to rock the boat to the point there are races without winners. There are schools without grades. There are trophies for last place. I am all for loving our neighbor but sometimes love needs to be tough.
Once upon a time, our survival depended on grit and tenacity. Our modern society has become so easy and comfortable that these values are no longer required for survival and actually seemed to be discouraged because they can come across as too aggressive or make someone stand out from the pack.
I believe that this current culture has driven a lot of brilliant people to fall far short of their potential. Which is a travesty for our country and our world. It has stifled the God-given gifts of far too many people. There is a lot more greatness in those around us than we will ever see because they would stop after failure one, two, or three. I don’t want to operate this way, although I have in the past. I benchmark myself off of those around me which is a mistake because they’re living give-up lives. I need to benchmark myself off of people like Abraham Lincoln that won’t take no for an answer. They won’t allow the realities of this world to hold them back. I can only imagine that along his journey hundreds if not thousands of people told him no, give up, you’ll never, you don’t, you won’t, and all the other things we have all been told but he didn’t let that stop him. He didn’t use his upbringing as an excuse. He didn’t use his personal losses as an excuse. Nor did he blame his failures on his circumstances. He knew what he could do. He had passion and beliefs and he fought and fought and eventually was able to really make an impact because he never gave up. He had a level of grit that is hard to come by in any time period but feels almost impossible in our soft society. It is that same grit that led him to be one of the greatest Americans of all time.
So the moral of the story is don’t give up. Each one of us has far more in us than it feels like or than we even realize. We can do so much more. We can withstand so much more. We can be so much more if we live life with real grit. God has gifted each of us with tremendous gifts and abilities and it is our duty to push ourselves to the limits of those gifts to maximize the impact we can make on the world for Him.