A good friend of mine gave me Ron Chernow’s 960-page biography of President Grant for Christmas, and I not only loved it, I found it wonderfully inspirational.
President Grant failed miserably time and again; he was cheated and lied to by his family and closest friends over and over, and he endured viciously unfair insults throughout his entire career, but he just kept going.
A few Grant Factoids:
1. Grant’s father was a well-off leather tanner who secured a position at West Point for Grant.
2. Despite serving in the Mexican American war with distinction, Grant was forced to resign from the army in 1854 b/c of his drinking.
3. Grant was an alcoholic, as most people know, but his drinking was greatly exaggerated by his enemies. He kept it mostly under control through sheer force of will.
4. Total Failure! After the army, Grant failed miserably as a farmer, a real estate agent, a rent collector and even as a street corner firewood seller. He was at rock bottom when the Civil War started.
5. His wealthy family would not help him out. His in-laws thought he was beneath their family, and his own father resented Grant’s wife. Grant’s father and father-in-law just let Grant and his family suffer in poverty prior to the Civil War.
6. Grant’s in-laws supported and fought for the South.
7. Forgiving. Grant not only repeatedly forgave all of his detractors and tormentors, it was he who insisted on forgiving the South after the Civil War and not pursuing its officers for treason, allowing the country to unify much faster.
8. Politics were way more vicious and factional in Grant’s time. Today’s politics are very tame in comparison.
9. Flat broke again after his Presidency. After his second term, he lent his name to a friend to set up a Wall Street investment house that was, in fact, a Ponzi scheme. Grant lost everything and endured the extreme humiliation of being a flat broke former President who was completely duped, and who wiped out many of his friends too.
10. He contracted terminal throat cancer b/c of his cigar habit and wrote his extremely successful memoirs with the help of Mark Twain, and left his family very well off in the end.
In any case, this short blog hardly does justice to the entire story. I have never read about a man who was so consistently cheated, undercut and insulted, and who just kept going no matter what.
In business we all endure a lot of horrible things. If, however, you ever start to feel the least bit like a victim, I highly recommend reading this wonderful book.
Photo courtesy of History.com.
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