Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Persistence of Abraham Lincoln

It takes certain elements of character to be able to rise from near obscurity to leader of the free world. Abraham Lincoln died more than 140 years ago and history books are yet to close on his name. He remains a mentor to many people including the legendary basketball coach - John Wooden (whose "Pyramid of Success" remains relevant today), the 44th President of the United States - Barack Obama, just to name a few. Many people admire Abraham Lincoln's leadership during a difficult era and his insistence on living a simple and honest life. However, people overlook the elements of his character and personality that accounted for his success.

Lincoln came face to face with many obstacles during his lifetime - his fiancée died, he failed in business twice, he had a nervous breakdown and he was defeated in 8 elections. These obstacles could either make or break him. He's a legend and inspires many people today because he didn't let obstacles break him. Instead, he gracefully made each stumbling block into a stepping stone and kept his ambitions on track. Today, his legacy is that of a President against whom all his successors are judged.

During his childhood, very few families could allow kids to devote time to "luxuries" like studying. While many people were busy with physical activity that rendered them exhausted and left them with no energy to work on their minds, Lincoln was busy working on his mind, reading and studying by the fireside late into the night (although his father was not enthausiastic about his drive to read). After his mother - Nancy Hanks Lincoln and father - Thomas Lincoln died, the eagerness of young Abraham Lincoln to learn all he could, through reading was not swayed.

His eagerness to learn was a positive constant in his life. At 22 years old, he decided to leave home and fend for himself. While working as a postmaster and storekeeper in order to raise money to support himself, Lincoln read for the law. Instead of attending law school, he amassed knowledge of legal precedent and procedure independently. It's worth mentioning that Lincoln's formal education lasted only 18 months but he was largely self-educated and loved to read.

One word clearly defines Abraham Lincoln's character - PERSISTENCE. Not even a freight train could throw his ambitions off track. He lost many loved ones - his mother died while he was only 9, his father later died leaving him with his stepmother - Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. Another personal loss during his life was the death of Ann Rutledge, a woman with whom he had reached a romantic understanding. Lincoln had another great loss during his Presidency when his 11 years old son died of typhoid fever.

Abraham Lincoln had the ability to muster courage and move on even in tough times. He cherished his friends and as President, he listen to his advisers, considered their thoughts and followed their advice. However, when he knew he was right he stood by his decisions despite unprecedented opposition. Lincoln maintained a sense of humor even in the darkest days of his life. To illustrate this, he once said: "I laugh because I must not cry." To him, humor was a coping strategy which stopped difficulties from getting to him.

Lincoln's Lessons
  • Work hard
  • Don't take yourself too seriously
  • Focus on your goals
  • Rely on humor to get through difficult times
  • Read everything of interest to you
  • Consider the past
  • Cherish your memories
  • Learn from history, but always move forward.
  • Sorrow is a valid emotion. Feel it and endure it, but do not allow melancholy to define you.
  • Try not to overcomplicate everything.
  • The best presentation of a fundamental idea is honest and straightforward.
Permit me to end this article with a famous remark made by an obscure kid who eventually became the 16th President of the United States. While he was still unknown, his friends frequently heard him say: "Someday I shall be President." That was Abraham Lincoln.

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