Leadership Purpose and Resilience - Persist or Desist

I recently came across the story of a remarkable man. He first went into business, but his venture flopped. He switched to politics, but also flopped. He tried his hand at business for a second time, but failed again. That meant three failures in a row - in three consecutive years.

He proposed to his fiancée after four years of courtship, but she turned him down. He started courting another woman who then died. He had a nervous breakdown. After convalescing for two years, he relaunched his political career with a bold bid to be elected Speaker to the House of Representatives. Once again he failed.

Two years later he was defeated for the position of Elector. Three years after this, he was defeated for a seat in Congress. Five years later, he sought office again, to be defeated again. Tragically his four year old son died at around this time. Seven years in the wilderness followed before he ran for the Senate, to no avail. Three years later he tried for a seat in the Senate, and failed again. Finally, two years later and after twenty four years of dogged persistence, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth President of the United States of America.

Really successful leaders do not let setbacks send them into irreversible downward spirals. They learn from their mistakes. They adjust and persist until they succeed.

  • Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It is a good job that Edison did not give up after 9,999 attempts; otherwise I might be producing this content in candlelight and with pen and paper.
  • Henry Ford only succeeded after failing by producing overpriced, low-quality cars that didn’t capture the imagination of customers. He learnt and went on to develop the highly successful groundbreaking Model T in 1908.
  • Walt Disney initially set out to be a newspaper cartoonist. No one would hire him. So he started a commercial art studio, then an animation company. Both went into liquidation. Disney moved to start afresh in Los Angeles. Again he failed - losing his most popular character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to a competitor. Disney gave it another try, creating a mouse called Mortimer - who his wife, Lillian, renamed Mickey. The rest is history.
How we learn from and handle the setbacks that inevitably come our way reflects our mindset and is critical to success in every walk of life - especially in business. How are we approaching 2021? It’s been a challenging last 12 months, with continuing challenges ahead. How clear are we about our goals and the purpose of our business? How determined are we – as individuals, businesses, nations, alliances - to reinvent pathways to success, to achieve our business and personal goals, to deliver on our purpose? The choice is ours - to persist or desist! Let’s make it a good one!

For ideas and guidance on where to start gearing up your business for the post-lockdown recovery download 7 Ways to Reignite your Business here.