One of the first things that stood out to me about Lincoln's life was the way he handled adversity. His mother died while he was still very young. He didn't have consistent access to schooling, so he taught himself. He was defeated in his first attempt at public office. He filed for bankruptcy. He was unlucky in love. He lost three times in his bid for the U.S. Senate. He suffered from what would probably be considered by today's standards to be severe clinical depression. But he persevered. It wasn't just his presidency that interested me; it was also everything he encountered on the road to the presidency that really captured my attention.
Had Lincoln been given the option, he probably would not have selected all of the trials he suffered; but rather than collapsing under their weight, he used them to strengthen himself for his next goal. He was determined to learn from everything that came his way, even if the lesson was painful and the experience heartbreaking. "I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday," he once remarked. To him, life was a series of lessons that presented opportunities. Wisdom came from making the most of each one.
It seems to me that had Lincoln not gone through all of the disappointments he did before he became the commander in chief, he would not have been adequately prepared to preside during arguably the most tumultuous period of American History. Because he had not been spared the harsh realities of life -- the heartaches and the disappointments -- he could deal with the larger trials that awaited him down the road.
Lincoln himself once said, "The worst things you can do for those you love are the things they could and should do for themselves." He fiercely believed in self-sufficiency, and in the maturity and character that struggles and hardships can bring. This lesson is so important for teachers and parents. It is only natural for us to want to shield our students and our children from anything that might possibly cause them hurt or to suffer or even to be uncomfortable. But some degree of pain is necessary for a person to become suited for the responsibilities that lay ahead.
The preceding text is an exerpt of pages 78-79 from the book A Game Plan for Life by John Wooden and Don Yaeger.