1. Always aim high. As a child Churchill was ignored by his parents and given very little encouragement. A beloved nanny raised him. Once old enough he was sent off to boarding school. He craved his parent’s attention but received little from them during his formative years. Nevertheless, he was not crippled by resentment or anger. He always revered his parents, especially Randolph, his father. He wrote and spoke of them throughout his life with the highest regard. This emotional factor alone likely set him on the path to the greatness he achieved.
2. There is no substitute for hard work. Working sixteen–hour days he turned out multiple millions of words in books, articles, directives and speeches. I don’t know whether any other man of letters wrote as much as Churchill. He taught himself painting and built walls and ponds on his country home, Chartwell. He traveled, observed, and governed. This last job is probably the hardest of all. Governing is no easy task at any level. Yet, Churchill did it under stress, against opposition and he did it well.
3. He never allowed mistakes, disaster–personal or national–accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down. I have already mentioned the Dardanelles disaster. Johnson writes, “…his whole career was an exercise in how courage can be displayed, reinforced, guarded, and doled out carefully, heightened and concentrated, conveyed to others. Those uncertain of
their courage can look to Churchill for reassurance and inspiration.”
4. He wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meanness’s of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas. I have read several Churchill biographies and watched many documentary dramas on his life. The stories that illustrate this truth are remarkable. He was not a saint, but the man had a remarkable ability to move on past a storm of conflict and seek reconciliation. Even with the Germans.
5. The absence of hatred left plenty of room for joy. He lived an abundant life. A happy event brought him pleasure. He delighted in surprising people and sharing in good things with them. He kept the gates of his country home open so that neighbors could come and walk the gardens. He told many jokes and himself was the butt of more. Yet he had the rare ability to laugh at himself. Johnson writes, “Joy was a frequent visitor to Churchill’s psyche, banishing boredom, despair, discomfort, and pain”.