Abraham Lincoln: “True Grit”

We often assume that successful people have easy lives.  Not true.


Beethoven (1770-1827), one of the world’s greatest composers, went deaf.  It was after he lost his hearing that he composed his masterpiece Ninth Symphony with its “Ode to Joy.”

John Milton

John Milton (1608-1674), one of the greatest English writers, went blind.  It was after he lost his eyesight that he wrote his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. He created and memorized a hundred lines of iambic pentameter poetry at a time, and then dictated them to his daughter.


Renoir (1841-1919), the great French impressionist, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis the last twenty-five years of his life. Some of his most celebrated works were created after he lost the use of his fingers.  


Many studies conclude that the most important factor in long term success is “grit.” “Grit” is a positive trait based on an individual’s perseverance and passion for a long-term goal. This perseverance promotes overcoming obstacles.

Abraham Lincoln: “True Grit”

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is one of the greatest examples of determination, perseverance, and grit.

In 1818, at the age of nine, Lincoln’s beloved mother died, leaving eleven-year-old sister Sarah in charge of the household. Ten years later, sister Sarah died in childbirth.  Lincoln was devastated by each death.  

Partially because of his tragedies and failures, Lincoln struggled with “melancholy” or clinical depression throughout his life.

 Here is a summary of some of his many loses and failures:

  • -1832: failed in business.
  • -1832: defeated for state legislature.
  • -1833: failed in business again.
  • -1834: elected to the state legislature.
  • -1835: beloved sweetheart and first love died.  
  • -1838: defeated for speaker of the legislature.
  • -1838: suffered a nervous breakdown.
  • -1840: defeated for elector.
  • -1842: defeated for Congress.
  • -1846: elected to the House of Representatives
  • -1848: defeated for House of Representative
  • -1858: defeated for U.S. Senate.  
  • During this time, Abraham and Mary Todd had four sons. Only one of them survived into adulthood.

After so many tragedies and failures, most people would have given up.  But Lincoln endured. He persevered. He had grit.

Finally, in 1960, Abraham Lincoln was elected sixteenth President of the United States, and he went on to become our greatest president.

What if Lincoln had given up because of his tragedies and failures?

(Sources: Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, Benjamin P. Thomas; Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, Carl Sanbburg; “Abraham Lincoln” episodes on American Ride, BYUtv; “Abraham Lincoln” and “Abraham Lincoln in politics, 1849-1861,” Wikipedia. )

(See: http://www.londonedition.net)

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