May 18, 2017

make history

make history

Winston Churchill sitting in Hitler's chair. Does it get any better than that? This is one of my favorite photos. Such a powerful image and profound reversal of fortunes.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

Winston Churchill

There was a time when the Germans appeared unstoppable and the United Kingdom, under incredible economic and political pressure, might be expected to succumb and sue for peace with the aggressor. These were dark days when bombs rained down on the Capitol City and there was nothing the British Empire - greatest perhaps in all history - could do to prevent it.

But the dry rot at the heart of British leadership had started long before the war. While pressure from without and from within had long been growing on the empire, many looked to one Adolf Hitler himself as the model for renewal that the nation should follow.

David Lloyd George had been to Germany, and been so dazzled by the Führer that he compared him to George Washington. Hitler was a 'born leader', declared the befuddled former British Prime Minister. He wished that Britain had 'a man of his supreme quality at the head of affairs in our country today'. This from the hero of the First World War! The man who had led Britain to victory over the Kaiser!

Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

Churchill had a different plan: Britain would be indomitable.

There are thousands of books about Churchill, a fair number of them written by Churchill himself. His life is so profound and interesting not because it represents flawless execution and success, but because he so often failed. Yet, somehow, he survived. It can be argued that no man in history ever collected such as a vast array of personal, political, and military disasters as did Churchill.

But Churchill wasn't some ashtray collecting cinders from other men's cigars. Winston Churchill asserted influence over his own destiny - and then the World's. He took action and he was at fault when things went south. Men died because of his decisions.

When it came to dealing with this leadership challenge, Churchill was pig-headed. His stubborn attachment to his own point of view, coupled with a can-do attitude that verged on the hubristic, led him to ignore, discount and distort vital data. He forcefully imposed his strategy and did not give ample space for dissenting voices to challenge his assumptions, express their views, or explore alternative strategies. The merits of his plan seemed completely self-evident to him, and he was hell-bent on seeing that his strategy prevailed.

Dean Williams, Winston Churchill's Terrible Leadership Failure

And yet no matter the blood or tears he always came back. Churchill rose again from far more than most men will ever fall to. He worked tirelessly. He refined his craft, learned from his mistakes, and doubled down on his bets. He operated with a clear vision for what he wanted - for himself and for his country. And be brought others with him.

Hitler showed the evil that could be done by the art of rhetoric. Churchill showed how it could help to save humanity. It has been said that the difference between Hitler’s speeches and Churchill's speeches was that Hitler made you think he could do anything; Churchill made you think you could do anything.

Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

People are drawn to those who have vision. But vision alone isn't enough. When the hammer falls, the punches come, and the mistakes are made you must still be there. When you pick the wrong path, and the failure is all your fault, you must still be there. Indomitable. Dauntless. Intrepid.
never give in
Finding strength, energy, and inspiration from the defeats lays at the heart all true success.

And that leads me to two fundamental questions:

  1. What is the equivalent of Hitler's chair in your own life? Who's metaphorical grave will you stand on?
  2. What are you willing to come back from to make it happen?