[March 28, 2019] After my initial tour of duty overseas in West Germany, the first movie I saw upon my return was Rocky (1976). Starring Sylvester Stallone, this movie was a come-from-behind story about an uneducated, small-time boxer who wants to regain his self-respect by fighting the world heavy-weight champion. It’s about one man’s desire never to accept defeat.
Winston Churchill’s speech ‘we shall fight them on the beaches’ is one of the defining speeches during World War II. Full audio of the June 4, 1940 speech can be found here (see link, 2:00 minutes). In part, he said:
“We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
Never give up. Never accept defeat. Winston Churchill knew that his citizens needed to understand their leaders were there with them; no matter what the odds. These have been the words of many great leaders throughout history. Often, during times a nation has faced an existential threat from without, hard times required hard decisions. Some say we should brush aside these ideas as antiquated notions of yesteryear. Real leaders know different.
Today’s young have never seen war, rarely seen disaster that plagued the old world. They grew up getting a trophy for participation and are told they are smart, talented, sexy, and the world owes them. Such behavior is antithetical to learning the importance of never surrendering when the going gets tough. As leaders, we know.
The leadership lesson is, never accept defeat.