Leadership Lessons from Richard Nixon

Each November, my wife and I go to Palm Desert.  We spend time together, and then when she’s all Trevor’d out, I meet with clients.  It works beautifully.

This week during some of our time together, we drove out to Yorba Linda to tour the Nixon Presidential Library.  I thought it was excellent.  It portrayed a complicated leader who wanted to do right, accomplished much, and was also brought down by his own mistakes.

He spent his whole life winning, losing, and then staging comebacks.  He lost key elections, experiencing the heights of electoral success (carrying 48 states in the 1972 presidential election), and the depths of humiliation, resigning the presidency in disgrace only months later.

A Nixon quote stood out to me:

“The greatness comes not when things go always good for you.  But the greatness comes when you’re really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes.

 Because only if you’ve ever been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

After resigning the presidency, Nixon licked his wounds for a while, and then staged a comeback, establishing himself as a foreign policy expert, writing books, and being consulted by leaders from across the globe until his death in 1994.

So I write to all of you who are being tested today.  You who are fighting a battle; with physical or mental health, with family or personal issues, with grief, or with work.

My message is an encouragement to you.  Hang on.  Persevere.  Have faith that there will be better days in the future.

Because it’s in the valleys that we learn and build character.  The valleys mature us so that when we’re on the mountain top, we can handle better times with grace, humility, compassion and generosity.

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