For the sake of balancing out the parties, I’ll focus on Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. My comments will have nothing to do with their policies, personal morals, and political affiliations. While each certainly faced challenges after getting elected, let’s just focus on their career success in winning the Presidency.
I’m also choosing these 4 because they all came from modest beginnings. Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were poor. Carter was actually middle to upper middle class but no differently situated than most Connecticut suburbanites.
While they all had gifts Nixon (analytical intelligence), Carter (morality) Reagan (charisma) and Clinton (communication ability), they also had challenges. Nixon (unattractive), Carter (rigid), Reagan (while college educated was not formally schooled in the way that most achievers are) and Clinton (female distraction). Why then did these men achieve career success?
(1) Willingness to take a risk
Each took the major risk of running for President. As is being demonstrated right now during primary season, the decision to run for President makes many people look foolish. The New Yorker just had a great piece on former Governor George Pataki’s current bid for the presidency. That you might not even know that Pataki is running and that he is still in the race illustrates the risk that Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton faced of looking foolish. The article on Pataki is brutal. Only in retrospect does it seem like they made a sensible decision to run for President, all 4 were looked at as taking a huge risk when they decided to run.
(2) Each got up after being knocked down.
History doesn’t focus on the losses that Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton had prior to winning the Presidency. Each lost elections – perhaps the biggest public failure one could have – but then got up and went for it again.
Consider these lessons as you evaluate career risk. You have to embrace both lessons for career success.