|Focusing your vision, achieving results|
-- Anthony Robbins
by Philip E. Humbert, Ph.D.
Harry Truman didn't find a career until late in life. He didn't marry until well into his thirties, and before that he tried a variety of jobs and ventures, including farming and selling men's clothing. His clothing store went bankrupt and he referred to himself as a "failed haberdasher" for the rest of his life. Because of poor eyesight, he barely made it into the Army, but served with distinction and courage in World War I. In his 40's and 50's he drifted into politics and served as a county commissioner, mainly dealing with road repair.
He never had money and he and his wife spent most of their married life living upstairs in his mother-in-law's home. When he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he was seen as a party hack and given little respect. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt selected him to run for Vice President after the "better" candidates were all rejected. FDR thought so little of him, they never had a serious conversation and Truman was told nothing about the atomic bomb until several days after he was sworn in as the new President.
And yet this "common man" is often viewed as one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th century. How can this be?
Truman himself often said that there "are probably a million people more qualified than me to be President, but I'm the one with the job, and I'll do my best." Throughout his life, he was always known for doing his best, and often astonished people by exceeding their expectations. Here are some of my observations about how he did it.
1. First, he out-worked everyone around him. FDR rarely got to work before 10:00 AM, but Truman was usually up by 5:30 and worked all day long. In his first days as President, the change caught the White House staff off-guard. From the butlers to members of the Cabinet, they had never seen anyone who worked so hard and demanded such from them. One key to his amazing success was simple hard work.
2. Second, he was decisive. Where FDR delayed and avoided decisions, Truman listened to advice, read the reports, made decisions promptly, and once they were made, he rarely changed his mind. He made bold decisions and once made, he knew how to hold a steady course.
3. Third, his personal integrity was beyond reproach. At the Potsdam Conference after the war, he went into Berlin and a staffer suggested they could go drinking or get some "women of easy virtue," to which Truman coldly responded that he loved his wife and didn't mess around on her. He kicked the staffer out of his car and never spoke to him again.
4. Fourth, he knew the value of loyalty. He was famous for his life-long friendships and personal warmth. He knew the names of staffers in the White House, and remembered their families. When members of his staff came under political fire, he ignored the newspapers and kept his team together.
5. Fifth and most important, he knew who he was. In the face of enormous pressures and criticism, Truman knew his goals and purposes, remained firm in his beliefs and seldom waivered. He had enormous personal courage and quiet confidence in his own judgment.
Sooner or later, life confronts each of us with problems that seem beyond our abilities and asks us to meet them anyway. Whether from illness or business gone bad, or in some other form, eventually we must dig deep to see what we are made of. These "impossible" challenges reveal our character and give us the opportunity to surprise ourselves. President Truman did it, and so can we.
Copyright(c) 2006, all rights reserved. Dr. Philip E. Humbert, professional coach, author and popular speaker . He has an excellent weekly newsletter and I encourage you to subscribe at: http://www.philiphumbert.com
A wam welcome to our new Coaching Tip of the Week subscribers who I met last week at the 20th Annual New England Meetings Industry Conference and Exposition (NEMICE) during my program "Demystifying the Coaching Experience." I enjoyed sharing my coaching tools and experiences and learning from you. Thank you for attending and participating fully.
If you are interested in reading David McCullough's biography of President Harry Truman, click here.
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