DL Fowler's Blog

The Myth of Lincoln’s Failures

Posted in failures, Inspiration, Lincoln, Lincoln Raw, Lincoln's Psychology, Psychology, PTSD, Themes by DLFowler on April 13, 2013

There’s a common myth that Abraham Lincoln experienced a lot of failures before he was elected president.

Truth is …


… he only lost one popular election and only failed in one business venture.

The election hardly counts as a failure. It was his first campaign, he was 23 years old, had only lived in the legislative district for a year, spent all but 2 weeks of a 4 month campaign fighting in the Black Hawk War, and won 75% of the votes in the town where he lived – none of whom were family.

The business failure occurred a couple years later, and while it dogged him for more than a decade, his successful law practice provided sufficient income to repay all his debts. Before he became a lawyer he was a much-in-demand surveyor.

He was disappointed at not being picked by the Illinois legislature as the state’s US Senator, but he knew he was a long-shot because he was a member of the minority party. He was also a member of the minority party when he didn’t get chosen Speaker of the state assembly. After serving a term in the US House he wasn’t re-elected, but that’s because of an agreement he made with a group political allies rotate the seat, each holding it for a single term. A plum appointment he wanted to a Land Office job went to someone else based on cronyism, and he withdrew his name from nomination to run for Vice President.

So if it wasn’t his failures that fueled his success, what was it?

His little brother died at the age of 2. The three women he loved died before he was 30. His father beat him for reading, took all the wages he earned for doing hard manual labor, and left him and his sister to fend themselves over a harsh Indiana winter when he was 10 – just a few of the reasons for their estrangement.

Oh, he almost died 5 times in his first 20 years, including the day he was born.

How did these traumas mold his passions and drive his ambitions?

Stay tuned …

One Response

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  1. Lincoln’s Tragedies | DL Fowler's Blog said, on December 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    […] promised to post this a long time ago. Now the wait is over. Lincoln was no failure (see The Myth of Lincoln’s Failures). But he did […]


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