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The Power of Perseverance

By Orrin Woodward

The story of Dwight Eisenhower is a long series of assignments with no glory and the power of perseverance in waiting for his opportunity.

At 50 years of age he was a lieutenant colonel and nearing the end of his career. Had it not been for World War II no one would remember his name except for a few military historians.

Stephen Ambrose, in his biography of Eisenhower, states:

“He was 51 years old; only the coming of the war had saved him from a forced retirement and a life with no savings and but a small pension to live on.

“Although he had impressed every superior for whom he had worked, he had no accomplishments to his credit that he could point to with pride for his grandchildren.

“Had he died in 1941, at an age when most great men have their monumental achievements behind them, he would be completely unknown today.

A couple of key points emerge from Mr. Ambrose’s commentary.

First, regardless of fame or fortune Eisenhower did all he could with each assignment. He persevered with whatever he was asked to do. He focused on getting the job done, not self promotion.

Second, he was prepared when his moment of destiny came. So many people feel life has dealt them a bad hand and decide to go through the motions.

But great leaders will play every hand life deals them. Instead of getting worked up over injustice and playing the victim roll, great leaders make lemonade out of lemons.

Like the saying goes, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it that counts.”

I believe some of the greatest leaders developing on the team are toiling away in obscurity. No one knows their name, but they will.

Leadership cannot be hidden and by preparing and responding properly — your moment will come. Do the best where you are at! Do not cry over what you don’t have, but focus on what you do have to get the job done.

This is all part of the process to develop the leadership necessary to handle bigger assignments. Are you doing all you can where God has you in life? Are you crying over what you don’t have or focusing on the gifts and resources you do have?

If you want more you must prove to be faithful in the little you have.

My wife Laurie and I decided a long time ago to go the extra mile in whatever we do. When you join the second-mile club you are separated from the crowd. Your team knows you are special and responsibility naturally gravitates to the second mile club.

Go the extra mile — accept responsibility even though it is not your assignment. Everyone likes to follow people who get the job done with a cheerful attitude.

Eisenhower never cried about his fate, but worked diligently to be the best he could and look what happened. He was a 50 year old lieutenant colonel ready to retire, to Supreme Allied War Commander and then two time president of the United States.

Are you the next Eisenhower? Are you going to be prepared when your moment comes?

I think of all the people who look back on their life with regret and believe they never had an opportunity. I believe most were given their opportunity, but were not prepared mentally for the challenge.

When the opportunity came—they were too busy entertaining themselves or complaining about their situation to hear it knocking. Opportunity is knocking. Are you preparing to greet her?

Remember, “When opportunity and preparedness meet, success must happen.” We have a responsibility to prepare and in confidence know that opportunity will come knocking.


Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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