A very good friend of mine who is accomplished, and holds a responsible position, asked me how I perceived him in an important meeting we had attended together. At first I was taken back knowing this friend is self-assured (in a very positive way). I never imagined this could be something he really ever thought about.
Since having this quick and simple interaction, I have thought about how natural it is that we underestimate much of what we do. Abraham Lincoln delivered what I believe was the best speech in the history of the United States.
Kim and I traveled to Gettysburg with friends Dan Roberts and Gary Hancock. Each of these men know interesting facts about what happened there, and shared them with us. Standing onsite, with them, hearing them explain unknown occurrences was truly inspirational! Here are some things I remember.
Lincoln was known to be a sincere speaker who had a gift with words. He had been asked to participate in the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery which is located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The date was November 19th 1863, which proved to be about half way through the Civil War. The Confederate soldiers had been defeated in what was described as a bloody battle.
The main speaker who spoke before Lincoln was Edward Everett, a Whig politician from Massachusetts; he spoke for two hours, can you imagine? The speech to be given from the President was listed as “Dedicatory Remarks” in programs. Lincoln’s speech was only two minutes long! Think of being there listening to one man speak for two hours, to have yet another speech to be given after it concluded. Fortunately the next speech was only two minutes, and was as powerful as it was, I bet they desired more!
The famous Gettysburg address is only ten sentences and said to have been well thought out by Lincoln before the delivery. In the dedication there are words nearly all Americans can recite, “Four score and seven years ago…” We also learn that our nation was conceived in liberty, and will not perish. Lincoln’s respect for soldiers who “gave the last full measure of devotion” was evident in his words. He suggested that we can’t dedicate, consecrate, or hallow the ground as brave men had already done so, and that their consecration was far above our abilities to do the same.
What maybe a little less known is that President Lincoln felt his dedication was a flop; can you imagine that? The crowd who gathered was speechless the entire two minutes he spoke, which he misunderstood meant bored. No, absolutely not, we all know now! He had held the audience spell bound, and I believe wanting more, yet he was completely unable to sense personally he had just participated in our history.
What is it we can take away from seeing those who do well, questioning how they did? One, we are much harder on ourselves than we need to be. Often we find ourselves being our own worst critics. If this negativity is used by some to generate motivation for improvement, great, but more often these feelings are self limiting. Believe in yourself; understand others are viewing you much differently than you think. You probably hit it out of the park!
Two, be free to be who you are. For any of us to be ourselves, we need to be free from feeling the necessity to act in ways others will approve, or even enjoy. No one is better at being you than you! We need the uniqueness of all our diversity; be you. Don’t let the wonderment of how you will do, or how you have done, write who you will be now, or in the future. We need you being you!
Lastly, be proactive in helping others understand how valuable their input is to our well being. When you participate in something where another has performed, step up and acknowledge them for what they gave you. We all need a pat on the back and encouragement for a job well done!