March 11, 2014

Life Lessons from the Civil War

I get to travel some for my various clients and recently I went to Washington, D.C. for a public broadcasting summit. It was a great experience and during my time there, I was able to tour the Daughters of the American Revolution museum (above), attend lunch with PBS documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, eat breakfast in the Member's Room of the Library of Congress, and hear from all sorts of interesting speakers.

One such person (who I've had the pleasure of meeting before this trip) was Pat Harrison, the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She served as the assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell and has done lots of other cool things in her career.

But she said something in a keynote speech that stuck with me. She spoke about a book she had read called Take Command!: Leadership Lessons from the Civil War. I hadn't heard of it before then, but am thinking of reading it.

Mrs. Harrison mentioned a section from the book about how often in business and in life we have a little victory and then lose focus of the bigger battle, stopping off to the side to celebrate and revel in our success or bemoan our defeat. She said that according to the book, in war this is how you get killed. And I guess in life, it's how you never really get anywhere.

I don't think she was saying not to celebrate when something good happens...I think it was more about always moving forward. And not to let anything throw you off track whether you win or lose.

The book also outlines how Robert E. Lee was fearless and this is how he managed to be successful on many occasions. I've written a lot about fear and how it holds us back. I struggle with it all the time. Fear of being perceived a certain way. Fear of not being perceived at all.

What I realized is that when you are really focused on your goal, you don't have time to worry about any of that nonsense. So maybe my problem is really a lack of focus...I'm not sure. But it is something I'm thinking about.

I hope you have lots of victories, large and small today and always! And if you need to stop along the way and celebrate them or have a tiny pity party when things don't go well, I say go for it.