Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming the first President of South Africa to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. During his time in jail, he kept a scrap of paper in his cell that contained the words of a poem by William Ernest Henley, entitled “Invictus”. It ends with the famous lines, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
To make it through times of extreme adversity, you need to embody these words. Take responsibility for the results you create in your life, and keep agreements with yourself. They are at least as important as agreements with others.
From his eight election failures to the civil war, perhaps no U.S. president suffered more hardship than Abraham Lincoln. But throughout his presidency he remained steadfast, and was even quoted saying that if by the end of his term, “I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”
Always show loyalty to yourself. Embrace your weaknesses and shortcomings, but work to turn them into strengths. You cannot control the negative opinions of people around you, but with self-acceptance, you can block out the noise.
As Steve Jobs once said during a famous commencement speech, “You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”
Human beings are often irrational, but you should always trust your intuition and your instincts. Make your judgments based on experience and listen to your gut. Understand that you will make wrong decisions and you will fail but that, without these experiences, you’ve never truly lived.
The great paradox is that the people who enjoy the most public successes often endure the greatest private failures. However, these leaders understand, and even expect, that storms will come their way. They also realize that it’s how they handle the dark moments that gives them the internal strength to shine during their brightest ones.
So stand tall when you hit rock bottom, and focus on the wise proverb “this too shall pass…” While it might not seem like it at the time, with responsibility, self-acceptance, and trust, you can overcome even your greatest failures.