Last Friday was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. He would have been 207. He still inspires us, today.
Perhaps we should rename Presidents Day to “Underdogs Day.”
Heroes we celebrate today were almost always underestimated for large stretches of their lives. They were underdogs.
This year when people are predicting your failure, remember the underdog. Even the last three US presidents elected were laughable underdogs early in their campaigns.
Smart money would have never bet on Abraham Lincoln early in his career.
For all the reasons we’ve heard about him in history class, Lincoln wasn’t supposed to succeed. Yet he was elected president.
Smart money would have never bet on Abraham Lincoln early in his presidency.
Before he even moved into the White House, seven southern states had seceded from the Union. Even within his own hand-picked Cabinet, he faced strong opposition, including one member who mounted a secret presidential bid to challenge Lincoln in the next election.
Yet Lincoln birthed changes that altered the course of history, not just in the US but around the world. He’s the underdog’s underdog.
That’s because they’re predicting future success based on the external factors they can see (wealth, education, fame, size) and historical data they can point to (background, experience, past wins/losses). They’re making the safe and reasonable bet.
But their analysis doesn’t factor in the Arsenal of the Underdog.
Underdogs bet on themselves.
They’re not reckless. They bet on themselves because they possess the Underdog’s Arsenal, which “smart money” doesn’t understand.
The Underdog’s Arsenal includes things like:
- New view: A paradigm or point of view that challenges established wisdom and accepted traditions.
- Courage: A desire to contribute something much bigger than themselves, a driving force that won’t let them quit.
- Guidance: A unique map or plan they rely on, reshaping it as they go—and often a confidant (think Yoda or Gandalf) who knows the path.
- Challenge mindset: An attitude that views every event as a stepping stone or learning event, even when it fails.
- Sense of self: They know who they are. They’re not trying to be someone else or to please someone else.
Underdogs quake with fear like everyone else does.
But they draw on their Arsenal to keep them going. You have your own Arsenal, too. Remember that.
Thank you to Abraham Lincoln for being such a public and inspiring underdog.
Thank you to the everyday underdogs who inspire us—friends and neighbors whose failure was predicted yet who still did something great.
Thank YOU for the great things you’ve contributed and for the great contributions you haven’t yet dreamed of.
We’re naming a holiday for you.