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From Breakdown to Breakthrough

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

You might already know this story, but it’s always good to revisit it as a reminder.

This man was born in 1809.

In 1816, at age 7, he was forced to work because his family was expelled.

In 1818, he lost his mother.

In 1828, he lost his sister.

In 1831, he opened his first business and went bankrupt.

In 1832, he stood in the legislative elections and lost.

In 1833, he borrowed money to open another business and went bankrupt again.

In 1835, he met a wonderful woman. He fell in love with her, they got engaged, and she died.

In 1836, he entered a dark period of his life: deep depression.

He remained bedridden for 6 consecutive months. But he got up. He got up and in that same year of 1836 he ran in the legislative elections and lost again.

In 1840 he presented himself as an elector. He lost.

In 1842, he met the woman he would end his life with. They fell in love, got engaged, got married and she gave him four children. They lost three of them.

In 1843, he appeared at the Congress and lost.

In 1845, he appeared again at the Congress and lost again.

In 1850, his son died.

In 1854, he ran for the Senate and lost.

In 1856, he ran for Vice President, he didn’t even have 100 votes.

In 1858, he ran again for the Senate and lost again.

And in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States of America.He was elected for two exceptional terms (he was assassinated in the beginning of the second term.) He was one of the most respected Presidents in the history of the United States.

It’s important to tell this story of perseverance because we see the hero, but we don’t see the backstage of the afflictions.

The greater the breakdowns, the greater the breakthroughs available (as long as you don’t lose sight of the goal and don’t ever ever give up).

Major innovations and commercial breakthroughs in business came out of failures—from the Post-It note (a superglue that did not really stick) to Club Med (whose founders pitched some tents on a beach in 1950 to offer cash-strapped, war reconstruction-weary Europeans the world’s first all-inclusive vacation) to, yes, Viagra (a heart medication that malfunctioned—the drug had big side-effects on men).

But you have to speak up and declare the breakdown. Say something like (as Churchill did when he saw that Germany was re-arming in the j1930s and nobody paid attention): “Up with this I shall not put.” You have to be like Rosa Parks, who refused to get up from the whites-only seat when the bus driver shouted at her to move to the blacks-only section in the back of the bus.

What do you think? Reflect for a few minutes on three major successes in your life and/or work. What failures were at the source of each success? Then think about something in your life or work that is no longer acceptable to you. What breakdown can you declare? I look forward to reading you. For further details or questions, please email me at




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