Our high school football team (American football) is headed for the state championship game this weekend (You can see their championship game promo here.)
Two years ago when these senior players were sophomores, their team won no games. It was a painful experience for everyone.
But the coaches and players rallied around a new vision, and now they are reaping the harvest of their hard work.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to say a few words to the team. So I shared with them one of my favorite stories from history: the epic battle of Little Round Top.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin was a college professor from Maine when called up to serve for the Union army during the Civil War.
As a young officer, his division was given the task of holding an important hill position, Little Round Top, during the battles of Gettysburg.
As the Confederate troops made their way toward Chamberlin’s position, it became apparent that if they advanced, they would push into the Union’s flank and devastate them by taking the high ground.
Chamberlin followed his orders. Even when the Confederate troops outnumbered his own and began advancing up the hill, his men suffered high numbers of casualties while sending the enemy back down the hill each time.
Chamberlin was right in the middle of it all–bullets grazing him and men falling around him. Each time the Confederates regrouped and advanced, more Union soldiers fell.
Finally, Chamberlin’s men reached a crisis. So many had been killed or wounded, holding the hill was becoming uncertain. And worst of all, they had run out of ammunition.
So, here is where Chamberlin’s leadership put him in the history books. He ordered his men to fix their bayonets and to charge down the hill. The broke-out of their hiding places and became a raving band of screaming, furious warriors brandishing their swords and charging with bayonets in mid-air.
The Confederate troops collapsed and retreated.
Chamberlin’s men had held their position without any bullets left to fire.
(For a more detailed account of the battle, go here.)
Most of us have experienced the ups and downs of wins and losses in our lives, careers, schools, or teams. Whatever roads you are currently facing, here are three take-aways from examples like Colonel Chamberlin:
1. Know your mission and stay committed to its goals.
Whatever you are leading, stay true to the calling you have before you. Tough times make it easy to give up. But stay committed to your goals because there is no other way to reach them.
2. Know your team, and lead by example.
You can lead others into tough places when you’ve done your homework. This means knowing what obstacles to anticipate. It also means leading by being willing to go first.
3. When faced with impossibilities, choose the path that requires courage.
Great outcomes are not reached without risk-taking. If you plan to reach your goals or lead others toward shared goals, then be prepared to make the hard calls, holding yourself and your team to the practices you know can result in achievement.
This morning I was talking to our head coach. He was relaying how proud he is of his team after all they have been through.
Sometimes it is the most difficult experiences in life that prepare us for the greatest achievements later.
But courage is an amazing force in the face of obstacles and difficult times. It is an essential ingredient needed to face unsurmountable circumstances.
No matter what your latest battle is, have courage and take heart. Because courage is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to move forward even in the face of it.
Now It’s Your Turn
What goals have you set for you and your team or organization? If the goals you want to reach were easy, then they wouldn’t require courage to reach them.
What are some other examples of courage you would love to share with the rest of us?