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  • markmccuen


Walking up the steps of the capitol, surrounded by armed guards and wondering if he had what it took to survive, he was one of the most unpopular elected officials in history.

Would the crowd, filled in vitriol and hate, end his life today? Would this be his last day in the public eye? Never before had one person divided the country like this.

Stepping up to the top of the stairs, he thanked his protectors and started those last few steps to the podium alone. He strained for any sound of warning, remembering his dad telling him that “you never hear the shot that kills you.” Would it all end today? He thought of his career and the business failures that peppered his past Would this be just one more failure in a life of defeat?

At the podium, he looked out at the sea of faces, some singing his praise, most screaming hateful threats and jeers. He began to speak.

In what seemed to be hours, he found comfort in coming to the end of his speech. He extended a verbal olive branch but, hoping to coalesce the crowd with a common goal, he was doubtful of washing away the anger.

“I am loath to close,” he said. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

That speech would go down in history as the beginning of one of the most important steps any one man could take.

Sadly, four years and 41 days later, Abraham Lincoln’s deepest fear would come to fruition in the middle of a time of celebration as he sang the chorus of the Union. I always wonder if he heard the shot that took his life.

He had three business failures and seven unsuccessful attempts to be elected to public office. Was Lincoln’s life a failure? By every account, it was his leadership that saved the USA from splitting in half. Clearly a success. Was that one success worth it? Of course, it was.

I shudder thinking about what the world would be like without the leadership of Lincoln. What if he let his fears overtake him? Did he look back and relive his failures?

No, he didn’t. He took one more step.

He failed forward.

How about you?

Do your failings define who you are?

What would you change if you as a 12-year-old you knew who you would become? Anything? Everything? What if you could become that 12-year-old again, with complete understanding of everything you have done since? Would you study more and party less? Would you take better care of your body? Would exercise and diet take on a new priority in your day-to-day life?

Who we are is like a good stew. If we leave out the carrots, reduce the salt, or don’t add meat, it’s just not the same.

So it is with your stew. Everything in your life, the good and the bad, the painful, and the joyful, the success and the failure, make you who you are.

Embrace your failures!

Marinate the meat in your stew.

No one else can do what you do.


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