Many years ago, a little boy was born into poverty in the southern state of Kentucky. He was a small boy in a small home with a small family. His father was a struggling farmer ousted by community politics and destined for strife within the local economy.
By the age of seven, his family was uprooted from their home and forced to make the trek to a more sustainable life in Indiana. There on a new farm with a new life, circumstances began to look up until one night when he was awoken by the screams of his mother. Earlier that evening she had ingested a contaminated glass of milk that led to days of suffering and her eventual death. A tragedy for any child to witness.
Time slowly passed as he bore the weight of emotional distress and relational hardship. His teen years offered him farm work. Work that "helped pass the time" and build up a character of discipline and determination.
At the age of 22, he left the farm and never returned. His immediate task was to create an income. He and friend decided to embark on their first entrepreneurial effort; a convenient store in Salem, Illinois. Excited about his new journey and armed with the mission of "taking out the competition," he took on substantial debt to make the vision come to life. Sadly, the two men were unfit to compete against the more established enterprise in town and eventually went bankrupt. To add insult to injury, his inability to pay back his loan, led to his possessions being seized by the local sheriff.
As he entered his mid-to-late twenties, he finally cut a break by establishing a career with the local government. But more importantly, he falls in love with a beautiful young woman and asks her to be his wife. She came from a family of ten siblings and had her own dreams of a family with her soon-to-be husband. But just three months into their engagement, she became ill. And at the age of 22, she passed away.
Riddled with depression, he found himself in the dungeons of a nervous breakdown. A breakdown which left him barely employed and bed-ridden for the better half of six months. A few years later, an anonymous poem on the topic of suicide was published on the anniversary of her death and was widely attributed her hurting widower fiance.
Years later, he would write this in a letter to a friend, "Women are the only people I am afraid of and who I never thought would hurt me.”
Hardened at heart yet unwilling to give up, he spent the next two decades chasing a series of career moves which were littered with wins and losses. His track record was not impressive nor accomplished. He was a man whose thoughts would consume him, whose confidence was shaky, and whose past wounds had slowed him down.
It wasn't until the age of 51, in which he would finally break out of his pattern of mediocrity. A moment that almost seemed improbable. An unlikely position that might only have been able to be filled by a man who had overcome so much.
On March 4th, of 1861 Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States Of America.
Gifting is perfected through trials
Abraham had every reason to give up. His life sounds familiar to the thousands of stories that end in alcoholism, retreat, and regret. But for some reason, his didn't.
His story teaches us that trials are the schoolroom for our life's greatest work. It is the moments of sorrow, embarrassment, and defeat that seed the emotional bandwidth required to lead our future.
A leader with little experience in feeling is a leader not ready for a following.
As entrepreneurs, starters, and creators we get slammed into the wall of frustration; forced to fabricate solutions from nothing. But more than that, we are men and women called to a high level of perseverance.
Leaders who see with their intuition and find success at the tips of their ability. People who control their words, their emotions, and their thoughts – because we understand that success is a war played inside the mind.
In 2014, I almost didn't become a bestselling author. I remember sitting there stuck in the sixth chapter of "People Over Profit" for days. Thoughts hurled through my mind, "This is a bad idea." and "Maybe this isn't the right time." and "Maybe I shouldn't write this book." It wasn't until my writing coach gave me a reason not to give up.
"Dale, people are looking for you. They are looking for your words on this topic. If you don't write this book, who will?"
In times of testing, it's easy to lose sight of why we started. Losing confidence in our ideas is easy. But similar to Abraham's story, we soon realize our fortitude is never for our benefit but the benefit of others. Giving up isn't about the change that would occur in our life, rather it's the end of what our life was going to do, going to change, going to fix, or going to stop.
There's nothing wrong with going slow, taking a break, or replenishing our motivation. Abraham himself famously wrote, "I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back."
Ultimately, Abraham Lincoln's abilities were perfected in his difficulties.
It was his hard years which prepared him to tolerate the stresses that came with the abolition of slavery, the victory of the Civil War, and the capacity to lead during these tumultuous times. He was honed through the tears and anguish and hurt of his lost loved ones. He was built in the times of blindness between careers. But interestingly, he was never lost.
If I learned anything from Mr. Lincoln's story, it's that motivation isn't permanent. It is renewed each day. Vision isn't indefinite. It is cast each morning. Discipline isn't owned. It is fought for by the minute. And dreams are not free. They are realized by ruthless individuals unwilling to give up.
The next time you're ready to pull out the white flag, think about what future story you might be sacrificing. Reflect on the customers, the followers, the watchers, and the critics. Be mature enough to evaluate the real loss of a surrender. Be wise enough to see the purpose of your trials. Be smart enough to change your plan before you change your dream. But most of all, be a force willing to move forward regardless of the pain.
Chasing Your Dream
There's nothing more debilitating than a career that's not your calling. If you have a dream, a business idea, a blog concept, or non-profit and just don't know where to begin, let me help you. Over 2,000 students have turned their passion into a profession with our step-by-step curriculum. If you're interested in starting something new, consider my video below.
Was this helpful for you? Are you struggling with giving up? Let me know in the comments below.