Such are the words of Benjamin Disraeli. His actual and full quote is as follows:
“Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle, Old age a regret.”
For those who are unfamiliar, Benjamin Disraeli was one of the Prime Ministers of Great Britain. Actually, he served as PM twice in his long career in Bri sh Parliament and politics. He was a key figure in creating what became the modern Conservative Party. There is much debate on his overall role in the pantheon of conservative thought. But, he was quite the literary figure as well.
The quote above is taken from a political novel, Coningsby. This novel set in the 1830s follows the life and times of Henry Coningsby, an orphan grandson of Lord Monmouth, a wealthy marquess. Or, if you prefer the more French version, he was a marquis. Lord Monmouth initially disapproved of Coningsby’s parents’ marriage, but on their death he relents, and he decides to provide for the boy. In so doing, he sends young Coningsby to be educated at Eton College. At Eton, Coningsby meets and befriends Oswald Millbank, the son of a rich cotton manufacturer who, as it turns out, is a bitter enemy of his benefactor, Lord Monmouth. The two older men represent old and new wealth in British society.
As Coningsby grows up he begins to develop his own liberal political views and he falls in love with Oswald’s sister, Edith. When Lord Monmouth discovers these developments he is furious and secretly disinherits his Coningsby. On his benefactor’s death, Coningsby is left penniless and is forced to work for his living. He decides to study law and to become a barrister. This endeavor speaks to his character and that in turn impresses Edith’s father (who had previously also been hostile to their relationship) and he consents to their marriage at last. By the end of the novel, Coningsby is elected to Parliament representing his new father-in-law’s constituency and his fortune is restored.
If you decide to dive into this book, you will find the quote above. But don’t bother. You have the summary and the quote above is the best part.
What is the Leadership Lesson?
The leadership lesson is about the struggle of life and about the parallel to the struggle of leadership. And further, it is about the fact that two of the three (blunders and struggles) are unavoidable. But I don’t have to live out my old age with regrets.
I acknowledge that my youth has been full of blunders. There have been far too many to recount here. And I will admit that manhood has at times proven to be a struggle. And leadership is always a struggle on some level. Leadership is hard. If it were easy, a lot more folks would be leading than sitting on the sideline waiting for a great and charismatic leader to emerge.
But, I refuse to reach my old age and have regrets. I refuse to live life without giving it my all in my struggle to be the man that I feel that I am called me to be, and to be the husband that my wife needs me to be, and to be the father that my children need me to be, and to be the “Papa” that my grandchildren need me to be. I will blunder and struggle all day long. Those are signs of effort. Those are signs that you are trying. And I will always (try to) be understanding of those who are “trying” to do something over those who are sitting around waiting for something to happen on its own.
What about you today?
Are you struggling a little? Then join the crowd. But join with me and fight the good fight and let’s overcome together! Let’s look back on these days in the golden years of our lives and have no regrets.