Get Your Lincoln On

Few American presidents could best Abraham Lincoln in the pithy quotes department. Gems such as “What kills a skunk is the publicity he gives himself” or “No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.”

But he also could turn a phrase to inspire a nation wracked with civil war. To mark Presidents’ Day, I give you a handful best suited to those running professional practices.

“Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.”
Successful professional advisory businesses are built upon clear, inflexible principles—values. There are no shortcuts to integrity.

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
So you failed: lost a client, flamed out with expanding a practice area, had your book ignored (or panned). Are you going to wallow in failure or figure out how to do it bigger/bolder/better next time?

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.”
Don’t let critics stifle your expression or cripple you from taking action. Who cares if trolls (or your non-sweet spot client base) don’t like what you have to say? Stick to your principles and roll with the punches.

“Some day I shall be President.”
Keep your eye on your vision. The more concrete you make it, the more likely you’ll achieve it. And by speaking it out loud, you just may engage others in helping you get there.

Get your Lincoln on: Happy Presidents’ Day!


  • Again, Rochelle hits the mark on her analysis and advice. I believe in something that Grant Thornton taught me, with the acronym of RIPL: Respect, Integrity, Professional Excellence, and Leadership. Above all else, Integrity wins out every time – and if your lose your integrity, you may never get it back!

    Rochelle touches on another important point – in that failure or problems along the way (wether professional or personal) do not necessarily mean the end of the world. Look at Donald Trump. Look at Joe Torre. Look at many others. Many if not most of the world’s business leaders have encountered hard times, failures and set backs along the way. A good friend of mine named Aaron Packles from Merrill Lynch once told me” “it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up”.

    Both Rochelle and Aaron are correct. Setbacks, failures, and the like make you stronger and more prepared for the future. Want a strong executive or partner for your company or practice? Look for someone who has dealt with adversity in their careers and have gotten back up to move on from it!!

    Stephen Masterson

  • All the quotes and analysis I find on point. However, particularly where politics is involved and perhaps even in office or professional politics I counsel not to speak out loud on the way up to avoid being a target. My recommendation — following my experience in NYC and NYS government, city, state and national politics and as a government and public affairs counselor since I left government service — involves a focus on one’s work and goals and to communicate professional aspiration less than by speaking what office or gig you seek but the kind of achievements you look to accomplish and the differences you seek to make.

  • Thank you Stephen and Corey! Adversity can tell us a lot about someone’s character–I have always preferred someone who has been beaten up a tad and turned it into smart learning.

    Corey, excellent point. I don’t know the context in which Lincoln uttered those remarks about becoming President, but they do sound self-serving to the modern ear. This sort of thing is better left to the internal mind while focusing on serving. Because after all, serving is what great leaders (and great advisors) do.

  • The last one resonated with me – small thoughts, small accomplishments – big thoughts, big accomplishments. If it’s in you, you should do it.

  • Thanks Rebecca– Abe would have liked that…..

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