I’m in the middle of a great book on Winston Churchill, The Last Lion, by William Manchester. Churchill is one of my heroes. In fact, I named one of my boys Winston. This book is a thick one, well over a thousand pages. It’s a riveting read.
World War II couldn’t have started much worse for England. Beginning with Dunkirk and continuing through the fall of Singapore, U-boat supremacy in the Atlantic and a string of bad luck in North Africa and the Middle East. Things looked awfully glum in 1942 and the people of England were beginning to grumble about Churchill and his handling of the war. Germany looked poised to crush the Soviet Union and then the Germans would focus on invading England. The United States, stunned by the events of Pearl Harbor had not put much skin in the game. Churchill was worried that America would pursue a Japan-first war strategy that would imperil England’s viability as a country. Things looked very bleak.
Churchill was made of very sturdy stuff. Though distraught by the string of lost battles, massive shipping losses and the surrender of symbolic and beloved British Empire outposts like Singapore and Hong Kong, he hung tough. Churchill weathered the storms of defeat. His personal courage seemed boundless.
Not surprisingly, he had something very interesting to say about courage and the role of enthusiasm and failure in building courage.
Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
Churchill’s immense stockpile of enthusiasm waxed and waned as he bounced from one catastrophic failure to another. But, gratefully for all of us, he and the Allies ultimately triumphed over the Nazis.
I’ve always loved the word “enthusiasm.” The use of this word has changed over the years. Back in the day “enthusiasm” was almost always used in connection with being inspired by God or being “full” of God. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos or enthousiazein, which meant, “to be inspired by a god.” Nowadays you can be “enthusiastic” about fast food or even about the NFL playoff games; God or religion doesn’t have to necessarily come into play.
During a particularly difficult time of my life when I was much younger I ran across something that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about enthusiasm that had a powerful effect upon me and helped me understand the vital importance of enthusiasm in everyday life.
Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.
This quote is powerfully simple and simply powerful.
Actually, let me share with you the entire quote:
When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.
We all have great things to accomplish in life, But, we all live in times, challenging times, that demand courage and gumption. The Apostle Paul described our times in pretty bleak terms:
…in the last days shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, Traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasure more than of God… (2 Timothy 3:1-4)
We all need enthusiasm as we all bounce from challenge to challenge and from failure to failure in life.
Besides, there is another reason to be enthusiastic. It’s highly contagious.
Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier.
Our friends and loved ones, our children and grandchildren and not to mention our long-suffering spouses could all stand to be injected with the positive virus of enthusiasm.
Pass it on.