Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness | Joshua Shenk

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2018: Book #3

Finished book #3 for 2018…

“Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.

Shenk makes a strong argument that Lincoln struggled with depression and it was that struggle that helped him persevere through the hardships of the war and the presidency.

Pros: This book illustrates the stuff a leader needs to be made of: Endurance. Principles. Clear Vision.

Cons: The danger in a book like this is that the author can take various quotes and stories and frame them to fit a narrative he wants to create.

Did Lincoln struggle emotionally? Probably. Is it a slam dunk case he had depression? I don’t think any scholar can say that with 100% certainty.

How did this book help me as a leader?

  1. Lincoln struggled with God, but never lost a belief in God’s divine hand in history.  This helped Lincoln get through both personal and political losses. He was a very heavy doubter.
  2. This quote struck me, “Lincoln, of course, is not the only nineteenth century figure in whom intense suffering coexisted with great achievement.”  That’s powerful and it reminds me of Spurgeon who said something like, “God will hurt deeply a man He desires to use greatly.” For me, use your pain. Learn from it. Learn to endure. Don’t give up. The greater the problem, the greater the lessons you will learn. View your hurdles as a training ground to make you a better leader.
  3. Another quote from the book (p. 193), Throughout history, a glance to the divine has often been the first and last impulse for suffering people. “Man is born broken,” the playwright Eugene O’Neill has written. “He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue!” That was a reminder for me to keep trusting God. He’s got this thing held together, I don’t.
  4. Finally, don’t quit. Ten (10) things can go right and one will go wrong. The one thing that went wrong will haunt me. It will weigh me down and whisper to me that I’m a failure and not good enough to be a leader…but soldier on.  Keep going, don’t listen to the voices.  Just keep walking toward the goal. Lincoln is a great example of doing just that.

5 out of 5 stars.

I highly recommend it; there are many good leadership lessons.

Book #3 is done…on my way to 52 in 2018.

Remember, all leaders are readers.
If you want to be a better leader…be a reader.
#52in2018

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