Big Red Car here on a brilliant, sunny Thursday in the New Year. 2019, YOUR year!
Every new year I look for inspiration and for inspiration for my clients. I always find inspiration in Churchill. Surprised?
No, the guy saved the Western World from the scourge of the Nazis at a time when the English had gotten their teeth kicked in by the Germans in France.
After he had overseen the cobbled together evacuation of the English army by pleasure boat across the Channel, he was faced with leading a scared nation whose army had left their heavy weapons in France.
Hitler was readying an airborne and seaborne invasion of England called Sea Lion.
So what did Churchill do?
He gave what is widely considered to have been the best political speech ever given. It contained the following money line, what the world has remembered. As you read it, imagine that distinctive Churchill accent. Read it slowly. Drink it in. Taste it. Smell it. Feel it.
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. 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,
Years later, many English would say they heard those words on the radio, but that is not correct. It was said only in the Parliament, in the House of Commons.
Afterwards, Churchill said, “And, we’ll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that’s bloody well all we’ve got!”
Several members of Parliament openly wept in front of their Labour and Conservative colleagues. Grown men wept in admiration for the belligerence of Churchill’s words as he spit in the eye of Hitler. At that desperate instant in time, that was all they had.
Josiah Wedgwood, First Baron Wedgwood, a friend, wrote to Churchill:
My dear Winston,
That was worth 1,000 guns and the speeches of 1,000 years.
Hitler paid Churchill the ultimate compliment — he called off Operation Sea Lion.
This is the nature of inspiration – it punches well above its weight class. An English Prime Minister, the country’s army badly beaten in France, bedraggled, unarmed, susceptible to immediate invasion, inspired his team with words. Then, he led them on to victory and unconditional surrender.
So, if you are a startup CEO, I challenge you. Get inspired yourself. Inspire your team. Stick your neck out. Mimic a bit of Churchill. One more Churchill quote for CEOs only.
“I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen I like to make them happen.”
OK, one more:
“You must put your head into the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success.”