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Perishable Thoughts —
Resolve To Succeed

With the economy on a tightrope and a recession in the offering, we are grateful to Scott Danner, Chief Operating Officer of Liberty Fruit Co., Kansas City, Kansas, for sending along this quote:

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

Letter to Isham Reavis
Abraham Lincoln
November 5, 1855

The letter can be viewed/purchased in:

Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings
By Roy Prentice Basler, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg
Photographs by Carl Sandburg
Contributor Carl Sandburg
Published by Da Capo Press, 2001
Pg. 337

Isham Reavis had written to Lincoln and applied for a student’s position in Lincoln’s office. In those days studying with a lawyer was the typical route to becoming an attorney. Lincoln wrote back explaining that he traveled too frequently to make studying with him advantageous. He advised young Reavis to get books and to study them on his own, pointing out that his own desire and capacity were more important than any other factor in his obtaining the goal of becoming a lawyer.

This point seems worth remembering when general economic trouble approaches. There are always opportunities… whether times are good or times are bad, there are always opportunities.

Abraham Lincoln learned the law by studying the books himself, and his advice to this young man was very simple: “Get the books and read or study them till you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing.”

One of the most pernicious sentiments to have spread in our society is the requirement for credentialing. In all states save California, one cannot be an attorney unless one goes to law school. This is not because all our lawyers today are now better attorneys than Abraham Lincoln was; it is because professional societies often function as labor guilds more focused on protecting their dues payers than the general public.

It is unfair to pick on lawyers. One can have a PhD in mathematics from MIT and in many states can’t teach high school math without going through a credentialing process.

These types of rules all restrict opportunity and make our society poorer. We hope that they will be changed.

Lincoln’s message though is that there are many roads to success and that one’s personal motivation is more important than general conditions.

It is always easy to blame one’s problems on the condition of the world, but Abraham Lincoln and Scott Danner remind us today that our own resolution… or lack thereof… is always more important in our ultimate success or failure than the general state of the economy or the attitudes of other people..

We thank them both for a well-timed reminder.


Perishable Thoughts is a regular section of the Perishable Pundit. If you have a favorite quote that you would like to share with the industry, please send it on. You can do so right here.

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