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President's Day Insight: All Great Success Stories Begin With Failure

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Here’s a slightly updated version of a classic article we first ran on March 22, 2015. Too many of us are afraid that if we try something new or different, we’ll fail. But some of the most successful people failed their way to success. I am reminded of a lesson that can be gleaned from the life of one of the most celebrated U.S. presidents: Failure is always temporary — unless you choose to make it permanent.

For 28 years of his life, Abraham Lincoln experienced one failure after another. In 1833, he had a nervous breakdown. When he ran for speaker of the state legislature in 1838, he was defeated. In 1848, he was not re-nominated to run for Congress. In 1849, his bid to become land officer was rejected.

But these failures didn’t stop him. In 1854, he was defeated in his senatorial run. Two years later, he lost the nomination for vice president, and two years after that, he was again defeated in a run for Senate. Then, in 1860, after this long string of failures, he was nominated for and won the highest office in the land.

Just as courage isn’t the absence of fear (but rather the overcoming of it), success isn’t the absence of failure. Failure is how we learn as we make our way toward success. Success is the result of refusing to quit the journey before we have reached our destination. If you reach for a very high branch, you risk falling hard. But if you keep reaching, you’ll have the chance to climb higher than those who allow their fears to hold them back.

A century and a half after he came to office, Lincoln is still remembered as one of the country’s greatest presidents. Imagine how different things would have been if he had allowed himself to become discouraged. Climbing your tree may result in tired arms and bruised knees. But the more you persist, the more determined you will become and the greater will be the benefit you bring to yourself and others.

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Sandy SchusselSandy Schussel has been a coach and practice development consultant for insurance and financial professionals for the past 20 years. He is an approved MDRT coach and has served as the national sales training director for First Investors and Foresters. He is the author of two books, The High Diving Board, about overcoming fear and Become A Client Magnet, about attracting and keeping clients.


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