It’s a long, hot summer here at View From The Top. Especially this year. I don’t need to tell you, we’re living in extraordinary times. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.
One thing you learn as an entrepreneur, though - just because you haven’t seen something, doesn’t mean it’s never happened before. Most of us grew up after World War II, but if that generation could still talk, they might give us some perspective. My experience as a Christian life coach is this could always be “the end” … but whatever it is, it’s nothing new.
I think there’s a lot to say for leadership in turmoil, as well. It’s one reason we decided to study it in our online mastermind groups for August. The book is called “Leadership In Turbulent Times,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and we’re focusing the first week on some key questions.
- Do you have a weakness, physical or otherwise, that’s only made you stronger?
- Do you recognize the importance of seizing an opportunity when it presents itself? Are there opportunities in front of you, that you miss because of chaos and confusion?
At 6’5”, Abraham Lincoln was a towering figure when he was alive. His leadership during the Civil War made him even taller in American history after his death. But according to Goodwin, his height and upbringing made him prone to bad first impressions.
You can’t always think about physical handicaps or moral failures, when we say “weakness.” Lincoln was athletic and had an incredible mind, but he actually had to work to build relationships with people. They often didn’t like the look of him, and only took to him after he went out of his way to be friendly and helpful.
Lincoln also grew up in very poor conditions. His dad was a farmer, who couldn’t afford and didn’t like his son getting distracted from chores … to read books! His mother died at a young age, and for many months he lived in terrible conditions while his father went east to find a new wife. He entered politics at age 23, without any family name, money or leadership experience.
Theodore Roosevelt had everything Lincoln lacked growing up. He was a son of privilege, with a wealthy and loving father who taught him all about the world. But Roosevelt grew up with severe asthma. It made it difficult for him to be competitive, or do certain kinds of work.
Roosevelt also brought a social stigma to his career. Unlike Lincoln, the problem wasn’t that he lacked education or money. It was the opposite - Roosevelt’s peers cautioned him against entering politics because his life had been “too easy.” Friends in his circle warned him that the rough men of the New York district where he ran for office would hate him because he had too many natural advantages.
Grab Life By The Horns
Both Lincoln and Roosevelt entered politics at the same age. They both became leaders in their parties quickly.
Lincoln did it by his skills with listening to others, and then thinking strategically about what their opponents would do. He could wisely talk his party members out of a bad decision, because he studied procedures and could help them find a way to win more battles than they lost. He would have made a great member of our mastermind groups!
Roosevelt did the opposite - he was a one-man gang. He gained a reputation by launching an attack on a local, corrupt state judge. It brought him a lot of attention in the press, plus reelection two years later and the seat of leadership in the New York state Republican Party. But he ended up falling hard, and learned the lessons of leadership by eating some humble pie. He had to learn to control his temper and develop empathy for people he disagreed with.
These men, as well as Roosevelt’s younger cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, grabbed opportunities and ran with them. In the early days of leadership in politics, all three made costly mistakes and errors. But all three of them also learned from their failures, which is something you need to know how to do if you want to succeed in business.
This strange year - 2020 - is no time to back away from leading, taking risks, being confident and giving your best. Even if you’re not prepared or haven’t got all the answers yet - it’s not time to panic and head for the hills and hollers. We can still do a lot of damage on the side of good. We can still bring hope to many people.
Personally, this year’s taken a lot out of me. But it’s also filled my life with great memories, especially when I enjoy the privilege of being a coach and mentor to men. I’ve had to relearn the lesson of seizing opportunities God gives us, even when things look bad “all day, every day.”
The Advantage of Masterminds Online
Theodore Roosevelt later wrote about his pathway to becoming President of the United States. It reminded me of why it’s so important to invest your time and money in a group of trusted advisors with no dog in the fight. Read this:
The first success belongs to the man who has the natural power to do what no one else can do, and what no amount of training, perseverance or willpower will enable an ordinary man to do … the second depends on a man’s ability to develop ordinary qualities to an extraordinary degree through ambition and the application of hard, sustained work … self-made success is democratic, open to the average man of sound body and fair mind … it is more useful to study this second type, for with determination, anyone can, if he chooses, find out how to win a similar success for himself.
That’s one Yankee who knew exactly where yonder is. Most of the members in Iron Sharpens Iron fall in this second category. They’ve got gifts and talents, and their lives are always improving. But they aren’t child prodigies who perform at the Super Bowl. They’re simply a group of good men and women who refuse to quit getting better.