“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill was British Prime Minister from 1940-45 and 1951-55. His inspirational wartime speeches are known around the world and his Battle of Britain, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” and, “we shall never surrender” lines are often quoted. He’s never far from the top of any “Great Leaders” Top 10 list, so what led this hugely successful man to say, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”?
Well, it took him three attempts to pass the Sandhurst military academy entrance exam, so this was perhaps an early indication that failure wouldn’t dampen his enthusiasm to succeed. He had wanted to enter the world of politics, but his father felt he lacked the intelligence to go down that route and packed him off into the military instead. As a cavalry officer and war reporter, Churchill served in Cuba, Afghanistan, Egypt and South Africa, but he continued to read and study British political news in a determined effort to overcome his lack of university education. After a daring escape from a prisoner of war camp in South Africa, Churchill became something of a hero back at home in Britain, helping him to become MP for Oldham in the General Election of 1900. By 1911, his political career was well and truly underway.
By 1914, war in Europe was looming and Churchill argued determinedly that Britain must get involved. However, with Churchill at the helm, a string of British naval failures in the first few months of war resulted in heavy losses, not least at Gallipoli, and he was forced to resign from his post – his reputation heavily stained. This degree of failure would have ended the political career of many, but Churchill doggedly made his way back into office, taking the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, a post once held by his father.
Churchill’s decision to restore a currency system that fixed the pound sterling’s value to a set quantity of gold – known as the Gold Standard – led to a collapse in export markets, and a general strike called by The Trades Union Congress brought Britain to a grinding halt. In 1929, Labour won the General Election and the Conservatives, along with Churchill, were out.
The following years became Churchill’s “wilderness years” with Conservative Party leaders largely ignoring him, including his warnings over the gathering strength of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Walking with Destiny
In 1939, Britain declared war against Germany and Churchill was plucked from exile to resume his role as First Lord of the Admiralty. By 1940, Britain and the Allies were losing the war, leading to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s resignation. Churchill stepped up to the post, also taking responsibility for the war effort as Minister of Defence. In his book, The Second World War, he wrote, “I felt as though I were walking with destiny and that all my past life had been a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”
History shows us that Winston Churchill was indeed the right man for the job in Britain’s hour of need. His skills as an orator inspired an entire nation and raised the morale of a population during times of extreme hardship, and he led Britain to victory in 1945. Churchill’s success as a leader was the result of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm – an enthusiasm for politics that he never lost.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Failures are something we all face in life, but something we can learn from Churchill’s story is that failure can be preparation for success if we learn from the experience, remain positive, and carry on without loss of enthusiasm.
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach and has worked tirelessly to help clients achieve success in the world of sport and business over the past 15 years. The next, highly popular, NLP Diploma and Life Coaching Certificate course starts in September 2019. Click here for more information or to sign up.