I am a huge proponent of studying the lives of the great people of history. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching a modern-day trailblazer in action but there is something more pleasing about studying another’s life in full to understand their story and what we can learn from it.
I want to know their dreams, adventures, successes, struggles, and what they learned in the process. Then I want to study the life application.
Those who know me and have read this blog are aware that I am a student of Winston Churchill as are many others. The latest book of his I am reading is Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill by Michael Shelden.
Most people know Winston Churchill by his magnanimous speeches with his deep British accent, his cigar in hand as he walked, and the way he led the United Kingdom with the Allies to victory in World War II. He is one of the most quotable people of all time and books continue to be written about him and I suppose more will continue to be for years to come.
What most people do not know is that Winston Churchill was considered an incredible failure by the age of 40.
Like Churchill, we begin life with so much promise and hope – the world is to be conquered. Churchill was desperate to establish himself as a fast-moving politician in Edwardian England. He was an astute student of history and knew that he must be daring in how he lived to gain attention. He served in the military for a few years and in 1899 he was commissioned as a war correspondent during the Boer War. Churchill became famous worldwide for his fight in a train ambush and later through his daring escape from a POW camp in South Africa. Most Americans don’t know that he was a celebrity in the US even in his twenties and went on a massive speaking tour in North America to share stories from his Boer War heroics.
It’s easy to canonize Winston Churchill because of his successes. But, pay closer attention to his failures that made him who we know him today.
During the First World War, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and the chief proponent of the invasion of Turkey now known as the Gallipoli campaign. His strategy was to create a southern link to Russia, their ally. The Turks were a skillful and determined enemy, repelled the allies, and the campaign costed the lives of many young Australians and New Zealanders (ANZAC troops). Perhaps not solely responsible for the tactical defeat on the ground, the campaign was never the less Churchill’s idea and it crippled him politically for years.
Churchill was a big, fat, failure.
We now know the rest of the story as it didn’t end there.
Churchill entered the political wilderness, dug in his heels, and marched back to eventually become Prime Minister during World War II.
So what do we learn from Churchill’s first half of life?
Churchill said it best,
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
We may not live life with the type of drama that Churchill lived but we do share the ups and downs of life. Which honest person hasn’t had setbacks in life? We all have taken a punch or two to the face and even have fallen. It hurts admitting it but it is part of life.
“Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
Churchill’s life has taught us that failure is part of our journey and we become better because of it.
For that, we can keep getting back up and moving forward because victory in life is found in how we respond to the punches.