Entry #15 – Restraint

Abraham Lincoln Quote - Never Walk Backward

Date: Thursday June 16th, 2016
Time: 14:55:03

I hope you all enjoyed my last entry as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll notice that my voice changes from time to time. I’m sure everyone does this to some extent. I’m not quite sure what to call it, but the voice in that letter is one of my favorites. I tried to use a similar voice in Entry #6 but I’d have to say this one came out much better. Now for the lesson.


In my letter, I stated that the world’s wisest stand behind me. One of these individuals, another man I admire, is President Abraham Lincoln. He accomplished an extraordinary amount in the years he had. He was the man responsible for abolishing slavery and ending the Civil War. Yet he knew that no matter how much power he held, these feats could not be achieved single-handedly. He understood people. He understood himself. He was a phenomenal leader.

Below is an excerpt from a book1 by Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) focused on an event during the Civil War. It shows a situation in the president’s life that you may call a moment of weakness but I call a moment of strength.

[President] Lincoln was furious. “What does this mean?” he cried to his son Robert. “Great God! What does this mean? We had them within our grasp and had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours; yet nothing that I could say or do could make the army move. Under the circumstances almost any general could have defeated Lee. If I had gone up there I could have whipped him myself.” In bitter disappointment, a normally restrained Lincoln sat down and wrote Meade what was, given his history, a harsh letter.

Simple Line Divider

My dear General,

I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within our easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so south of the river, when you can take with you very fewβ€”no more than two-thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect and I do not expect you can now affect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.


Simple Line Divider

It was a letter quite justified in being sent. Yet Lincoln never sent it. It was found among his papers after his death. What do you suppose kept the president from venting his great disappointment and understandable criticism?

President Lincoln was a master communicator, and humility was at the heart of all he said. He must have considered that if he sent the letter, it would have relieved some of his frustration but simultaneously ignited resentment in General Meade, further impairing the man’s usefulness as a commander. . . . Had Lincoln brushed such details aside and sent his letter, he certainly wold have won the battle of words, but he would have suffered loss in the war of influence.

This does not mean General Meade did not deserve to be informed of his error. It does mean there was an ineffective way to inform him and an effective way. . . .

Lincoln seemed to know, perhaps more than any other American president in history, when to hold his tongue and when silence was a graver mistake than speaking up.

It’s clear that President Lincoln was incontestably frustrated with General Meade. He even wrote down these frustrations with the intent to give him a piece of his mind. But he did something the average person will not do. He took a step back and looked at the situation from Meade’s perspective. He considered the hardships that Meade may have been faced with. He showed restraint.

Now I read this back in March. Unfortunately, the lessons I learn from reading don’t always sink in right away. Some things are best learned from experience. At least that’s how I learn best. Ali, I thank you for helping me internalize the meaning of this story. I sincerely hope my advice helped you and as always, I’m here to listen. I learn more from you than you can imagine.

By now all of you should also know I have no problem with failure. What troubles me is when my failure brings others pain.

By nature, communication takes at least two people. When communication fails, one person will get hurt. That’s just how it works. Maybe that’s another reason I avoided it for so long. I’ve moved past this fear. Now I make mistakes and learn from them. Growth is never easy, but it’s always worth it. I’m lucky to have so many wise mentors that don’t give up on me, in books and in life. Thanks to each one of you and I only hope that one day I may be half as wise and pass on your knowledge.

Note: If you’ve read this far and find yourself struggling in your interactions or relationships with people, I highly recommend How to Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age. As cliche as this sounds, the knowledge in its pages is truly priceless. Links to different online stores are included in the footnotes.

Functional Fixedness

A little tidbit before I close. I typed out the whole excerpt above. I could not for the life of me get the book to stay open in my lap as I typed. I tried a few different ways but nothing worked for more than a few seconds. Finally, I noticed a tool, a little blue clip, on my desk that I’ve used as nothing more than a decoration piece. In psychology, there’s a term called functional fixedness which basically means we tend to use objects for their traditional, intended purpose. For example, most people tend to use paper clips to hold stacks of paper together as opposed to picking locks.

This is just a little moment of pride for me when I overcame this bias with an elegant solution. I used the clip to secure the lighter half of the book to my pant leg. Worked perfectly without damaging the book. ^.^
Book Clipped to Pant Leg

As one of my role models said centuries ago:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
β€” Leonardo di ser Piero

I couldn’t agree with him more. There is a certain elegance to simplicity that perhaps only the best engineers may understand.

To awkward endings,

French: Γ€ bientΓ΄t! – See you soon!
Latin: Salve! – Hello! ; Vale. – Goodbye.

Turning Point – Audiomachine

  1. How to Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie
           Amazon: https://amzn.com/1451612591
           Barnes & Nobles: http://goo.gl/hw8D9r 

19 thoughts on “Entry #15 – Restraint

  1. Hahahaha … Congrats on breaking free of ‘functional fixedness’ and expanding your creativeness. I use the old spring-loaded wooden clothes pins for package sealers, like a ‘chip clip’.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There is a humbleness in quiet emotions. I say quiet emotions because if you don’t send them out to the world, well then they are quiet, even if they are written in a red hot rage. I didn’t know Lincoln did this. I tend to write fiction when I’m in a rage. Names changed, of course.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. Abraham Lincoln and I share the same birthday. Recently, in April, my oldest son and I visited his home in Illinois. I know that I admire him for being a president like no other. From his appearance to his speeches, he demonstrated that being the norm is not a qualification to be a successful individual.

    Liked by 1 person

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