There are many lessons from Winston Churchill that we can draw from his infamous speeches, many of which are very inspiring. Winston Churchill is best known as being the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II. Churchill, along with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, led the Allied powers to victory. Churchill’s involvement in WWII began shortly after the war started, when he was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty and as a member of the War Cabinet. Shortly thereafter, King George VI appointed Churchill as the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense as a result of being unhappy with the previous Prime Minister’s, Neville Chamberlain's, actions regarding the war. As Prime Minister, Churchill kept the resistance to Nazi dominance strong, and he met with Roosevelt and Stalin on three separate occasions to strategize a victory and determine postwar policies, which were to include the United Nations. Obviously, Churchill was a very wise and successful man, and, as such, there are many lessons from Winston Churchill that can be learned.
1. Success and Failure
Churchill’s statement, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm…” is one of the best quotes about success that I have ever come across. As someone who has a fear of failure, this is one of the most relevant lessons from Winston Churchill that I can learn. It is true that everyone will experience failure of some sort at some point in time. Without any failures it would be very difficult to succeed at anything because it would mean that you did not try. One of the best lessons to learn in life is to try your hardest no matter what. If you fail, you can learn from your failure and move on to an eventual success. I may not ever completely get over my fear of failure, but I can dive into any project knowing that even if I fail I can enthusiastically continue on until I find success.
I think most people are taught, very simplistically, that enemies are bad and friends are good. In fact, I know many people who will bend over backwards to be liked by everyone. However, having enemies is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Churchill. Churchill fervently declared, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” This certainly is a new way to look at enemies, and probably a more accurate way as well. No one can be liked by everyone, and if you stand up for your beliefs there is a strong possibility that you might anger someone to the point that they no longer like you. Being liked by everyone is not what is important. What is important is that you stand up for your values and beliefs.
Winston Churchill eloquently expounded, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Everyone will have many successes and failures in the course of their life. Some of these successes and failures will be big, while others will be small. Although all of these successes and failures define a person, Churchill is correct that courage is what matters. It takes courage to take a risk. It takes courage to move on from a failure, and it takes courage to keep trying when things are really difficult. Sometimes it is hard to find courage, but you should know it is always there. I have had to find courage many times, and remarkably I always do.
4. Pessimism and Optimism
Churchill explained that “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” For me, this is a new way to look at the dichotomy of pessimism and optimism. I generally associated pessimism with negativity and optimism with positivity, which is what Churchill has done. However, he has taken my straightforward view of pessimism and optimism and expanded it. Through this quote, I think anyone can see that being an optimist will allow you to face a difficult situation with a much better attitude. Optimism isn’t just about having a sunny disposition; it is also about going into any situation with the thought that you can achieve the best possible outcome. By thinking optimistically, your chances of actually achieving the best possible outcome will be much better just by the nature of self-fulfilling prophesies.
I have often associated courage with action; however, Churchill explained that courage is not just about action. According to Winston Churchill, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” It can take a surprising amount of courage to actually hear what another person has to say. It is especially difficult when they are saying something about you or challenging your beliefs. Yet, it is important to have the courage to listen. Often, people who are close to us see something in us that we do not. Listening to them may be hard, but it can also help you grow.
One of the most common questions to ask a person you first meet is, “What do you do?” This illustrates how much importance people place on occupation. While occupation is important, Churchill emphasized it is not the most important thing when he stated, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” There is so much truth in this statement. People have to work to earn money, but work is not what life is about. Life is about so much more, including giving of yourself to others. This can mean any number of things, including helping a friend through a hard time, volunteering, giving charity, and even giving someone a surprise birthday party. There are so many ways to give of yourself, and they all amount to showing others how much you care for them.
Churchill declared, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” While this statement holds true for just about anything, my experience in ballet has shown me just how far effort can take a person. As beautiful as it is, ballet is one of the most unnatural and difficult things for the body to do. However, I have seen many ballet dancers overcome the difficulty of ballet and become exquisite dancers by putting in long hours in the studio taking classes and practicing. With effort, almost anything can be achieved. Sometimes, you just need the patience and determination to continue trying.
Winston Churchill’s words offer many inspiring lessons that can be applied to all areas of a person’s life. While all of these quotes have taught me something, some ring truer for me than others. I am sure some of Churchill’s words were especially inspiring for you. Which of these quotes had the most meaning for you?