Presidents make excellent case studies for profiles in success. What is success? What common threads of success link our presidents together? What lessons do we learn from them?
An online dictionary defines success as “the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.” Albert Schweitzer suggested, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Herein lies our clue: Tie the knot between desire and the love of what you do (happiness).
Our presidents by and large embodied desire (a vision of something for the future) and enjoyed their mission. Lincoln said, “Treat them (the South) as if they never left,” and Theodore Roosevelt espoused living “The Strenuous Life,” turning his youthful adversities into presidential character.
JFK envisioned sending a man to the moon and enjoyed serving his country. On inauguration day, Jan. 20, 1961, he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” He courageously made a public apology after the Bay of Pigs debacle, and prevailed during the Cuban missile crisis.
And we can’t forget Ronald Reagan’s bold words: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Mr. Reagan would have turned 100 this year.
We learn from our great presidents three critical factors that make for success: belief, action and discipline. Belief empowers desire. Action requires doing something even when unpopular. Discipline molds character, turning desire into victory in the face of adversity.