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More Leadership Lessons—From Washington D.C.

I’m still thinking about our trip to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a couple of weeks ago. I always make sure to go to the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time this year. I could only see the Lincoln Memorial from several blocks away.

One of the highlights of each D.C. trip is reading Lincoln’s 1865 Inauguration speech, etched in the wall to the left of where Abe sits. Remember the country was in the midst of a bitter Civil War. The President, who was somehow reelected, knows the answer was to come together as one country. Look at the wisdom this man, with less than one year of schooling, offers. Part of the speech reads:

“Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

What could possibly give a man this much wisdom? Failure! Possibly you have read the following. It always helps me when I second guess anything I’m doing:

1809      Lincoln was born.

1816      Lincoln’s dad bartered his Kentucky farm for about 400 gallons of corn whiskey and moved the family into the woods. Honest Abe’s dad built a three-sided shed with no door, no windows and no floor—nothing but three sides and a roof of poles and brush. The fourth side was open to snow, sleet, wind and rain.

1818      Lincoln’s mother died (from living in the elements like this). He was 9.

1824      He knew his ABC’s but could not write at all. For the next five years he attended school on an irregular basis. In all, he had less than 12 months of formal schooling.

1831      Failed in business.

1832      Ran for legislature and lost.

1832      Lost his job—wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.

1833      Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years paying off the debt.

1834      Ran for state legislature and won!

1835      Fiancée Ann Rutledge, the only love of his life, died of typhoid.

1837      Was suffering from depression so bad over Rutledge that he was afraid to carry a pocket knife.

1838      Ran for speaker of the state legislature—lost.

1840      Ran to become elector—lost.

1843      Ran for Congress—lost.

1846      Again ran for Congress and won.

1848      Ran for re-election to Congress and lost.

1854      Ran for Senate and lost.

1858      Ran for U.S. Senate and lost.

1860      Elected President of the United States. Was so short of cash he had to borrow money from friends to pay for his trip to Washington, D.C.

1863      Gave a speech which everyone considered a failure—including Lincoln. Even the public considered it to be lackluster. It is now known as the Gettysburg Address.

Palm Sunday, 1865           The Civil War Ends.

Good Friday, 1865            Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth.

I share these things because we all know how difficult the last few years have been in automotive glass. Yes, this year is finally getting better—but we don’t have the glory days we had at one time.

So what do we do?

We run leaner. We run smarter. We provide better service. We communicate better—especially with our employees.

I know several entrepreneurs throughout the country that have figured these things out. It is always a pleasure to talk with them—and I look forward to seeing many of them in Baltimore at Auto Glass Week™.

Finally, we try to think like Lincoln. Remember, he lost running for Senate just two years before he was elected President. He has since gone down in history as one of the greatest Presidents. How? He didn’t let failures determine his future success.

Finally, remember his words, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” Sounds like advice we all need to heed.

Regardless of what is happening in Washington, D.C., there are always lessons to be learned. Have a week full of wisdom.

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