I’ve always been a believer in reading history, as it often repeats itself, or at least offers a case study for how to do (or not do) things. A recent trip to London seemed like a good time to pay tribute to a wise Brit, so I dropped into a local shop and purchased a small book on Winston Churchill.

As I read through Churchill’s sayings and speeches a couple of things occurred to me. First, while we are all struggling through these times, our parents and grandparents would gladly change places with us from their hard days in the Depression and a World War. Secondly, keeping the faith in our own abilities and ourselves will help get us through this rough patch. To use the wise words of Mr. Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.”

I’ve experienced hardship personally. Since leaving college, there have been two times that I’ve been financially broke. In a strange way, I’m glad I went through those periods. We learn a lot of lessons as we walk the trail. This week I was visiting a long time customer relationship in Minneapolis. During the course of conversation he said, “in life we all get educations and they all come with a price.” So wisely said. My “school of hard knocks” lessons were personally costly, but I’m convinced the trials made me a better person, someone capable of empathy.

This week I had dinner with a friend who I initially met as a business contact. Last spring, he called to let me know that he was in the same boat as millions of U.S. citizens. He had lost his job. He questioned his abilities and a lot of other things during that initial period of “why me?” but quickly recovered and reached out to friends. He did everything textbook. He got out of the house and volunteered every Saturday as a swim team coach for children with disabilities. He took business courses to better his managerial skills and most importantly, he networked and then networked some more. He refused to accept a misfortune as defeat.

Our recent dinner was celebratory. We toasted his new job as real estate director with an international Fortune 100 company. My friend had a new look. His face showed the confidence of someone who was faced with adversity, met the challege and is looking at a bright future. His new start came in our worst recession since the Depression. The best news of all…He doesn’t plan to quit his Saturday job at the swimming pool with his swim team.

My friend followed Mr. Churchill’s advice well. Never, never, never give up.

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
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