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7 Lessons From the Writings of Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people." Repetition of words is frowned upon by writers and editors. If you want to improve your writing you have give each word its own space and not repeat it unless necessary. That advice wouldn't be appropriate for editing this iconic quote by Lincoln. The repetition of the word "people" is intentional and is what makes the sentence so memorable.

Lincoln's writings reflect depth in knowledge about life and the reality of the world. He was self taught yet was more educated than anyone in his time with a formal education. You don't become the president of the most powerful country in the world and start a revolution to free an enslaved race without conviction and deep self assurance that comes only from knowledge gained through learning and deliberate reflection. Even centuries after his death, you'll find Lincoln's sayings quoted by many to express his ideas. There's a cool poster with Abe Lincoln's graphic and text that says "Good books build character," ended up on top of the list of best gifts for fans of Abraham Lincoln.

Following are some of his notable quotes and my thoughts on them.

1. Power brings out the worst in people

We all know what Peter Parker's Uncle Ben said about power and responsibility, but Old Abe tells us the most important truth about the nature of power.

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

With great power comes great responsibility. You may have heard this line in Spider Man movies. And this is true; power belongs to those who can handle it. It's a lot of responsibility, because any action you make the consequences are greater. Fate of others depend on your decisions.


But with power also comes a greed, and temptation. How many times have we seen good guy characters in the movies turn into a villain when they get some superpower? You can swear all you want that you won't change, but greed and temptation are very powerful emotions. Don't ever underestimate them.

A man with a great character knows his morals. He also knows his weaknesses, and he is always careful as he knows the consequences of his actions.

2. Your circumstances don't have to define how you feel

You can't control external circumstances. That is beyond your control. How you chose to react to them is up to you.

"People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."

I realized this fact a long time ago. Only you can decide when and if you want to be happy. Of course there are many factors that affect how we feel. Loneliness or depression is not something some people can talk themselves out of. But you can make it easier with the way to see things. Adversity can turn into a positive if you see it as a opportunity to toughen yourself up.

A few years back I read a quote somewhere that said: If your problem has a solution, you don't need to worry about it, and if your problem doesn't have a solution, worrying is not going to change that.

When I read this, I was amazed on how obvious this fact is, yet we don't understand it. We are so stupidly wasting our time in worrying about stuff, that we don't realize we are just exhausting ourselves mentally, and it's all a waste of time.

Why worry when it can't help you to find a solution to your problem?

This works for happiness too. Just decide to be happy, like there is no tomorrow, and enjoy everything you do. This is not something you'll learn overnight though. You'll have to get used to it. It's a habit and those we can train for. Just be mindful and whenever you find yourself thinking about the negative things, bring it to the present and turn it towards sorting though your thoughts.

3. Resolve help you get through difficult times

Life will throw obstacles in your way. That is true for any journey. Whether they stop you or don't is a matter of you will and resolve to not quit.

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."

Know that it is crucial that you believe this for this to work. When he says "bear in mind," he means that you have to absolutely believe it.

When you make a resolution to succeed in something, you must do everything you can to make that happen--give your best efforts. If you do that, you'll get the best results.

Where there is a will there is a way.

You'll find a way.

You might not believe this but when you want something badly and work really hard for it, the Universe will help you get it.

4. There's a way to get where you want, but you'll have to figure it out

Our civilization has been generations laying the path for the future ones to follow. If it is possible for someone else with equal ability, it is for you. You'll have to compensate for the differences though.

"That some achieve great success is proof to all that others can achieve it as well."

If you are one of those people who has "If he can do it, I can too!" attitude, congratulations; life will be so much easier for you. But if you are not, then it's the right time for you to change that. That being said, I hope you have realistic and sensible expectations. Just try your best, don't give up, and you'll reach your full potential

Do what's best for you, consider all the possibilities, and think about the future.

Also, just because you can doesn't mean you should. As I said before, consider all the possibilities and what's the best for you.

5. Having no opinion when you're ill informed is better than having the wrong one

You can't know everything. There's too much knowledge for any one person to possibly know everything. Pick a field that interests you and master it. It's all right to not know about everything and speak your opinion about everything.

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubts."

Don't speak if you don't need to. This might be hard for some people to do. It can be tempting to give your insight, however sketchy, to others. May be to show that you know, but try not to if you aren't sure.

Like an arrow shot from a bow, words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. So be careful what comes out of your mouth.

When you don't know about something that others are talking, stay quit and listen. Then use what you have learned next time the topic comes up.

6. Honesty is simple. It sets you free.

No lie lasts under scrutiny. Life is hard when you live in the fear of getting exposed.

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Bruce Lee taught us to be ourselves, not to pretend to be someone else. To be better, but not from someone else, rather from your past self.

You can't fool everyone pretending to be the person you are not. With lies and dishonesty comes shame. The only way to get over shame is to be honest with yourself and be vulnerable with someone you trust.

If you live in deception, some day people will find out and you will lose everything you build on that lie.

Three things cannot long be hidden for long: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

7. Don't let yourself dragged into decisions because of arrogance if you will have to backpaddle

You should take your time to decide which tasks you will take on. Don't rush into commitments you can't keep. And once you commit, don't back down. It will only hurt your confidence.

"I am a slow walker, but I never walk back."

Walking slow means to plan your every move, to think of all the possible outcomes, and to be prepared for anything that might come into your way. It's about patience and taking your time to learn what you need to.

Without a solid plan, you are likely to get lost and never reach to your destination. If you don't plan your moves carefully, you are as well as walking blind; you might reach, by luck, and you might not.

Whatever your goals are plan everything before you even take the first step. Think about all the possibilities. Always have a back-up plan. This might take time and effort, but it increases your chance of succeeding. Don't overthink your way into motionlessness though. A good plan is: think, act, learn, think some more.

More quotes by Abraham Lincoln

"Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it."

"The best way to predict your future is to create it."

"The ballot is stronger than the bullet."

"It's my experience that folks who have no vices have generally very few virtues."

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in."

Comments

Lee Cloak on May 08, 2015:

An interesting hub about an interesting man I know little about, thanks for the education, voted up, best wishes, Lee

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 07, 2015:

i like better to remain silent quote because many fools blurt out their crazy ideas

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