Overcoming Fear and Disappointment

His family moved in 1831, and he lost his job.  In 1832, he ran for the state legislature, and he lost.  In 1833, he and a friend borrowed money and started a store; his friend died, and the store lost money and went out of business.  In 1834, he was elected to the state legislature. In 1836 and 1838 he was re-elected to the state legislature.  In 1838 he was defeated in his attempt to become the speaker of the state legislature.  In 1840 and 1842 he was re-elected to the state legislature.  In 1843 he was defeated in his effort to become his party’s nominee for the United States House of Representatives.  In 1846 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives.  In 1848 he failed in his effort for re-election to the House.  In 1849, he failed in his attempt to be appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington, DC.  In 1855 was defeated in his attempt to get his party’s nomination for the United States Senate.  In 1856 he was defeated in his attempt to win his party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States.  In 1858 he was defeated again in a run for the United States Senate.  In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln did not let failure or defeat stand in his way.  He continued to try again.  

Babe Ruth was known as the “Home Run King” and the “Sultan of Swat.”  In 1927 he hit a record-breaking sixty “homeruns in a single season,” a record that stood for thirty-four years, until the number of games played in a season was extended from 154 to 162.  In 1961 Roger Maris hit sixty-one home runs.  The single season homerun record now stands at seventy-three, set by Barry Bonds in 2001.  Ruth’s record of sixty homeruns in 154 games still stands, and he set it before the era of steroids in baseball. 

Ruth also held the “lifetime homerun record” of 714 until Hank Aaron broke it in 1974.  Babe Ruth has long been remembered as one of the greatest hitters in the history of major league baseball.  

There is another record Ruth held that many people are unaware of.  He also was known as the “King of Strikeouts.”  He held the “lifetime strikeout record” of 1,330 until it was broken in 1964 by another baseball great, Mickey Mantle.   

Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out, an attitude that contributed to his remarkable success.  Much like Lincoln, Ruth knew that in order to win the big ones like being elected President of the United States or setting home run records, you have to be willing to suffer some setbacks and defeats along the way. 

Thomas Edison (1847-1931), prolific inventor, also was not afraid of failure.  People sometimes made fun of his “ridiculous” ideas and experiments.  Yet, he ended up holding 1,093 US patents, a record number for one person that still stands today.  He also held many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.  Edison was granted at least one patent every year for sixty-five straight years.  

Edison actually viewed failure as a success.  For example, it was rumored that he and his team of laboratory workers failed more than 10,000 times in storage battery experiments.  It is said that Edison explained the importance of the failures: “Why, I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

In 1941, in the midst of World War II, Winston Churchill, United Kingdom Prime Minister, visited Harrow School, which had suffered during German air attacks.  In the middle of his short speech of four minutes and twelve seconds, he spoke twenty-nine words that have turned out to be the most quoted of all his quotations: ”Never give in, never give in, never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” 

There are many fears, failures, defeats, and disappointment in life.  None of us can escape them.  But these real-life examples should help us understand that, in the face of such difficulties, we should not feel worry for ourselves and give up, but, instead, should dig our heels in and keep trying. 

In the Introduction of his famed book The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale wrote: “Altogether too man people are defeated by the everyday  problems of life.  They go struggling, perhaps even whining, through their days with a sense of dull resentment at what they consider the ‘bad breaks’ life has given them.  In a sense there may be such a thing as ‘bad breaks’ in this life, but there is also a spirit and method by which we can control and even determine those breaks.  It is a pity that people should let themselves by defeated by the problems, cares, and difficulties of human existence, and it is also quite unnecessary.” 

Henry Ward Beecher (1831-1887), famed Congregational minister, wrote: “The steel that has suffered most is the best steel.  It has been in the furnace again and again; it has been on the anvil; it has been tight in the jaws of the vice; it has felt the teeth of the rasp; it has been ground by emery; it has been heated and hammered and filed until it does know itself, and it comes out a splendid knife.  And if men only knew it, what are called their ‘misfortunes’ are God’s blessings, for the are the molding influences which give them shapeliness and edge, and durability, and power.”  

(Sources of information: Personal knowledge; Paul M. Angle, The Lincoln Reader, Rutgers University Press, 1947; Kal Wagenheim, Babe Ruth: His Life and Legend, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974; Robert Lewis Taylor, Winston Churchill, An Informal Study of Greatness, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1952; Paul Israel, Edison: A life of Invention, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998; Norman Vincent Peale, Power of Positive Thinking, New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1952; John Bartlett (Ed.), Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980.)

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