Friday, June 15, 2007

Keep on trying!

Most leaders have to confess that at they've been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. Many have taken encouragement from the story of Abraham Lincoln who failed more often than he succeeded in his bids for election to public office. The frequently cited list includes the following:

* 1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
* 1833 - Failed in business
* 1834 - Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
* 1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
* 1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
* 1846 - Elected to Congress (success)
* 1848 - Lost re-nomination
* 1849 - Rejected for land officer position
* 1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
* 1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
* 1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
* 1860 - Elected President (success)

The point is, Lincoln kept on trying and the fact that we live in the "United" States of America is a credit to his perseverance.

You've heard lots of variations on this theme: "If at first you don't succeed, try again." Or "try, try again." Or "keep on trying." Or "try again, harder." Or "try again, smarter." My dad used the poetry version, "If at first you don't succeed, another try is all you need."

Those are all good seeds for a pep talk. But, don't you sometimes wonder about the wisdom of continually trying something that's not working?


AP ran this story about Shivcharan Jatav, a 73-year-old farmer from the desert state of Rajasthan in western India, who just failed his 10th grade high school exams for the 39th time.

With no formal education in his childhood, Jatav has been trying to pass the exams since 1969, when an army recruiter told him it would improve his chances of being accepted into the military.

"Since then I have been trying to pass this examination, but without any success," Jatav said, days after receiving the bitter news that he had failed again.

Jatav passed only one subject -- the ancient language of Sanskrit -- and he said he scored just 103 out of a total of 600 in the examinations.

Even though he is too old to join the army he has kept at it, hoping to become a more eligible bachelor.

"I could not get married as the girls told my family members that I was not properly educated. It's my fate that deprived me of education and a married life," he said.

Jatav says he will try again next year in the hopes that an education will improve his job and marriage prospects.

Still, he has no regrets. "I am a happy and contented person," said Jatav.


I'm not sure what his high school guidance counselor or the local match-maker are telling him, but I'm not sure passing his 10th grade exams will qualify him for a better job or a place on the"most eligible bachelors" listing. On the other hand, he may be failing the course, but he definitely gets the "A" for effort.

How about you? Is there a goal that seems just out of reach? Have you given up or are you still trying?

Take time to evaluate if the goal is still relevant to your life mission. Count the cost of trying again and calculate the potential return on the investment. If it still matters and the reward outweighs the risk, go for it!

Leaders on the edge keep on trying!

" know the that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete, not lacking anything..." James 1:3-4 (NIV)