Abraham Lincoln: An American Success Story?

Excerpted from the book The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly:

“If there was ever a tale of American leadership and perseverance, it is that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was born into poverty in 1809. Throughout his life he continually faced setbacks and defeats. He twice failed in business, lost eight elections, and suffered a nervous breakdown. Defeat and failure were often beckoning him, inviting him to quit, but he refused that invitation, and his story is one of extraordinary perseverance. This is a sketch of his life:

In 1816, Lincoln’s family was forced out of their home, and he had to go to work to support them.

In 1818, his mother died.

In 1831, he failed in business.

In 1832, he ran for the Illinois House of Representatives and lost.

In 1832, he lost his job. Later that same year, he decided he wanted to go to law school, but his application was rejected.

In 1833, Lincoln borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business, but by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next seventeen years paying off that debt.

In 1834, he ran for state legislature again and lost.

In 1835, Lincoln was engaged to be married but his fiancée died and it broke his heart.

In 1836, Lincoln suffered a total nervous breakdown and was confined to his bed for six months.

In 1838, he sought to become Speaker of the state legislature and was defeated.

In 1840, he sought to become elector and was defeated.

In 1843, he ran for Congress and lost.

In 1846, he ran for Congress again; this time he won and finally made his way to Washington.

In 1848, Lincoln ran for reelection to Congress and lost.

In 1849, he sought the job of land officer but was rejected.

In 1854, he ran for the US Senate and lost.

In 1856, he sought the vice presidential nomination at his party’s national convention. He got fewer than one hundred votes and lost.

In 1858 he ran for the US Senate again and lost again.

Then, in 1860, Lincoln decided to run for president…I mean, based on what? His track record? He won and went on to become one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States and one of the finest models of leadership in modern times. In a speech Lincoln said, “The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself, ‘It’s a slip and not a fall.’”

Kelly also included this quote from legendary basketball star Michael Jordan:

“I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost more than three hundred games, and twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. Throughout my life and career I’ve failed, and failed, and failed again. And that’s why I succeed.”

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