As time passes, it sweeps away many of the most significant insights and lessons from the past. That is one reason we build monuments. We want to memorialize the wisdom that the harsh, often brutal experiences of life have taught past generations.
That act of preserving what our ancestors discovered is itself wise. Life is short. Learning from what our predecessors can pass along saves us from having to find it for ourselves.
Unfortunately, we live in an age with one transcendent value that seems to trump all others. T. David Gordon uses a multi-syllable (or enormous) word to describe it: “Contemporaneity.”
If it is not new, if it is not modern, we have little use for it. Sometimes we even treat anything that happened before we were born with suspicion or contempt.
We do that to our harm because life is too short to discover or devise on our own all we need to know.
To go anywhere in life, we must stand on the shoulders of the past.
That does not mean we can’t improve on the past. One of the biggest reasons for finding value in the past is that we can build on it and improve it.
We can and should improve many ideas and practices from the past. World and national history, like your life and mine, is always a work in progress.
One of the reasons we can easily look back on the past with a critical eye is that we have learned from it.
It is too easy, therefore, to fantasize that “I would never have done that or treated a person that way.”
How do you know that for a fact? You can only say it because of the hindsight that gives you greater insight than those who first blazed a trail you have now traveled further down.
Again, monuments are one of the precious ways we try not to forget what others have learned. It is one of the ways we try to gain momentum to make progress. If we don’t remember, we are destined to regress.
Gutzon Borglum sculptured Mount Rushmore National Memorial. He wanted us to remember some of our leaders who served the nation at critical times of significant change.
As a New Year unfolds and a new administration takes the helm of government, pause for a moment to reflect on some of the wisdom of leaders from our past. These were leaders who, precisely like you and I, were anything but perfect but who have passed along insight that can help light our way.
Don’t Fear Failure
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Lead Others to Be Great
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan
Own Up to Your Mistakes
“99% of failures come from people who make excuses.” – George Washington
“Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.” – Abraham Lincoln
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Focus on the Goal
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” – Thomas Jefferson
Embrace Your Role
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
“Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest plan you can think of and spend the rest of your life carrying it out.” – Harry S. Truman
“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” – James Buchanan
Test Your Character
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” – Abraham Lincoln
Be Wise and Courageous,
(To receive this weekly blog in your inbox, send a request to email@example.com.)