Today, November 30, is the birthday of Winston Churchill. H e was born 142 years ago in 1874 … and died almost 51 years ago in 1965 … yet his talent and prodigious output remains striking to this day.
Winston Churchill has always been one of my favorite historical characters … and for many reasons. His oratorical wit, style and passion was without peer.
[pullquote]An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity, a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity. ~Winston Churchill[/pullquote]
He had a spine of steel … with discipline and resilience to match, albeit the certainty of his convictions often triggered an abject stubbornness that wasn’t always welcome. It also created no small amount of turmoil.
I suppose some of these attributes can be found among many of us, so by themselves, they may not be so distinctive.
Prime Minister during WWII is only part of his record
[pullquote]To believe is to be strong … Doubt cramps energy … Belief is power. ~Winston Churchill[/pullquote]
For me, his greatest distinction is the enormity of his accomplishments.
In most lifetimes, we’d be fortunate to accomplish a fraction of what Churchill got done.
Most notably, he served as the Prime Minister for Great Britain (and for 40+ years in the House of Commons, holding many other cabinet-level positions previously), leading the Allies to victory against the Axis forces during World War II … by most standards, enough to earn eternal praise and approbation.
The Nobel Prize for Literature
Yet, who else in that same lifetime wrote 43 book-length works in 72 volumes?
Who else was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”. (Two of his most famous works are his six-volume memoir The Second World War and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. I am glad I can say I own both of them.)
Did he have a lot of help?
[pullquote]Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room. ~Winston Churchill[/pullquote]
Sure, he did … secretaries, transcription editors, everything you can imagine.
But … would each of us get that much done even if we had unlimited resources?
It’s unclear, isn’t it, because we also need a clear mission … a defined purpose … and the conviction we can illuminate the darkness by our efforts.
His life and history is no secret
Volumes have been written about Winston Churchill so I won’t elaborate on his oil paintings, gardening, carpentry and other skills … but if you’d like to learn more …
- Grab any of Martin Gilbert’s biographies (he is the “official biographer” for Winston Churchill), or
- Those of William Manchester (my favorite for their accessibility and his engaging writing style), or
- seek out one of the organizations dedicated to all things Churchill, like the Churchill Centre.
His Most Memorable Words
What many consider his most memorable words apply as much today as ever before:
”Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
We Must Continue The Battle
So too, we must resolve to continue the struggle, to be unwavering in our dedication to overcoming obstacles and pursuing every alternative to achieve success.
We can’t become complacent or imagine we will wake up to a new world order.
What Are You Getting Done?
Whenever we consider Churchill’s life, it’s tempting to be embarrassed by how little we’ve accomplished by comparison. While it seems superhuman to consider everything he accomplished in the course of a single lifetime, he wouldn’t want us to feel wanting by comparison.
He would want us only to be inspired to do even more with whatever gifts we have.
It’s easy to excuse our own shortcomings by pointing to all of the resources at his command.
But that’s too easy. If we are as convinced of the power of our mission, I’m certain we, too, can get all the resources we need.
[pullquote]I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. ~Winston Churchill[/pullquote]
Churchill puts on his pants one leg at a time. His day is the same 24 hours as ours. He, too, struggled in so many ways throughout his life, and yet he found the resources he needed to accomplish his mission.
That’s the key. He was on a mission, convinced that his contribution was worth every moment he invested. That “fire in the belly” might be what we see in some modern business leaders. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos come to mind.
We could do the same, but we probably aren’t as driven … or as committed … as convinced of the value of our purpose as he clearly was.
It’s not too late if you’re ready to take it on.
KBO became Churchill’s favorite phrase that ended most of his conversations, in a manner peculiarly British:
“Keep Buggering On”, he told everyone.
So, let’s have our five-minute pity party … and then get on with it.
That’s the least we can do in his honor.
Happy Birthday, Winston. You were quite a stud!
Question: What are you going to do RIGHT NOW to pick up the pace and get more done? Why not join the conversation and share your thoughts and comments? You can add your message easily by clicking the link to Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter. I visit them every day and look forward to discussing these ideas and concepts with you.