I’d like to share a new personal goal I’m working on: I’m intending on reading biographies of all U.S. Presidents in chronological order! I haven’t verified that there are published books of all the presidents, but I’m going to follow that plan as close as possible.
I actually got this idea from reading Justin Farley’s blog:
He’s currently read books on 21 U.S. Presidents, and this will be actually be my third (Lincoln & Grant, and now Washington), but this is first since making my plan to take this challenge on and would like to still read Lincoln and Grant as a part of this project, and even take on different biographies of them for this project.
Anyways, I’d like to share some quick thoughts on what I learned about the Father of Our Nation, George Washington:
Balancing Vanity with Humility.
I feel like I can go on for an extensively long time in writing about Washington since I was surprised to see so much of my personal struggles being presented in President Washington’s life, but I will just get to the point and you can go read the book for all the wonderful intricate details of this brilliant man’s life.
For being such a monumental figure in American history, Washington was deficient in formal education and was very self-conscious of that fact. This insecurity is thought to be one of the driving forces for Washington to develop robust habits to help maximize his learning and production potential.
While Washington is seen as a person who was a pure altruistic man that was completely selfless and ridded himself any sense of pride, he obviously doesn’t live up to that standard… I think he’s even above it. Washington wasn’t some super human that had supreme unshakable character, but rather he was aware of his personal vanity and learned how to cope with it with incredible success. He wanted glory, but he also wanted to act selflessly.
How did he control these polarizing desires? I think his personal insecurity played a strong role in his ability to push himself to great lengths that would result in public admiration, but that same insecurity wouldn’t allow him to bask in that recognition. It is truly remarkable that he was able to skillfully leverage perceived failings to maximize his potential while minimizing hubris.
I have to say I was very surprise with depth and complexity of his character. I thought this book would focus more on WHAT he did, but instead this book taught me WHO he was. Washington is a prime example of seeking out what is possible rather than what is impossible. Stop trying to validate what you can’t do and strive to find what it is that you can do.
Most Important Lesson I Learned: from President Washington is to not to seek attention, but rather focus on developing yourself and attention will seek you out. Be unrelenting in personal development; ask the very best from your character and pursue constant personal growth, and people will be drawn towards you.
Favorite quote: “He seized every interval of leisure to improve himself and showed a steady capacity to acquire and retain useful knowledge. Throughout his life, he strenuously molded his personality to become a respectable member of society…More than most, Washington’s biography is the story of a man constructing himself.”
“It was the extreme self-control of a deeply emotional young man who feared the fatal vehemence of his own feelings if left unchecked.”
“Oddly for a towering person in history, Washington never cited an early educational mentor, suggesting that his boyhood lessons were pretty humdrum. He left behind more than 200 pages of schoolboy exercises that focused on: geometry lessons, weights and measures, compound interest, currency conversions, and other skills necessary for business or surveying. Almost by osmosis, he absorbed law and economics by copying out legal forms for bail bonds, leases, and land patents; stocking his mind with a huge fund of practical information. The furnace of ambition burned with a bright, steady flame inside this diligent boy.
“It was in Washington’s nature to work doubly hard to rectify perceived failings.”
“As President, Washington lectured a young relative about to enter college that ‘every hour misspent is lost forever. and that future years cannot compensate for lost days at this period of your life.'”
“(Washington to his Grandson): ‘Light reading, by this I mean books of little importance, may amuse for the moment, but leaves nothing solid behind.'”
“Even as a young man, the complex Washington seldom had a single reason for his actions. His pursuit of self-interest and selfless dedication to public service were often intermingled, sometimes making it hard to disentangle his true motives. Perhaps for this reason, he could always discern both the base and noble sides of human nature.”
“Washington preferred things that were stylish but subdued, denoting his worldly status without showily advertising it.”
“Everything was perfectly sorted, classified, and slotted in his compartmentalized mind and books. Washington’s contemporaries recognized that his compulsive note taking, this itch to record his every action, went to the very essence of this well-regulated man. ‘You would be surprised to find what a uniform life he leads’ wrote John Hancock’s nephew after a visit to Mount Vernon. ‘Everything he does is by method of system… He keeps a journal where he records everything… he is a model of the highest perfection.’”
“Washington exemplified the self-invented American, forever struggling to better himself and rise above his origins.”
“The hallmark of Washington’s career was that he didn’t seek power but let it come to him. ‘I did not solicit the command’ he later said, ‘but accepted it after much entreaty.’ No less important for a man who would have to answer to the Congress, he was a veteran politician with sixteen year of experience as a burgess, ensuring that he would subordinate himself to civilian control. Things seldom happened accidentally to George Washington, but he managed them with such consummate skill that they often seemed to happen accidentally. By 1775 he had a fine sense of power-how to gain it, how to keep it, how to wield it.”
“He practiced the entire range of espionage tactics, including double agents and disinformation. In March 1777, for example, he passed along a litany of false information to Elisha Boudinot, who was supposed to relay it to a spy ‘to deceive the enemy.’ The circumspect Washington showed real artistry as a spymaster.”
“Deep questioning was typical of Washington’s political style. Holding himself aloof, he had learned to set a high price on his participation, yielding only with reluctance. Whenever his reputation was at stake, he studied every side of a decision, analyzing how his actions would be perceived. Having learned to accumulate power by withholding his assent, he understood the influence of his mystique and kept people in suspense.”
“While preserving an air of Olympian detachment, Washington moved stealthily in the background of the ratification process, one of his chief worries being that the Constitution’s detractor would prove more adept than its advocates. Although he admitted to defects in the charter, he tended to regard supporters as righteous and reasonable, opponents as wrongheaded and duplicitous. As a stalwart realist, he thought it dangerous to demand perfection from any human production and questioned ‘the propriety of preventing men from doing good, because there is a possibility of their doing evil.’”
“The Magic of Thinking Big” – David Schwartz
“How Will You Measure Your Life?” Clayton M. Christensen
Life verse: “But a generous man devises generous things and by his generosity he will stand.” -Isaiah 32:8
Life Mission Statement: To be intentionally focused on providing opportunity and adding value to others.