Motivation Articles

A Lifetime of Failures (and Successes)

Increase Your Abe-ility Timeline


This is just a short history of the disappointments and setbacks Abraham Lincoln was faced with in his life. It’s important to know he bounced back after each of these hurdles to learn something and grow from the experience.

It’s equally important to remember there’s an impressive list of success that more than matches up with this one.

Click here
to read what you can learn from the failures Lincoln persevered through during his entire life.

Age (some are estimated)




Family is forced out their home and Abe has to go to work.
Mother dies.
Loses job as a store clerk when business fails.
Runs for State Legislature. Finishes 8th of 13 candidates.
Gets job as postmaster of his township. Has worst      
   efficiency record in the county.
Business partner dies, leaving him huge debt and      
   another failing business.
Sweetheart dies of malaria.
Suffers a nervous breakdown.
Turned down in his first marriage proposal.
Runs for Illinois Speaker of the House. Loses.
Runs for Congress. Loses.
Elected to Congress – on third try.
Is not re-elected.
Runs for Senate. Loses.
Runs for Vice President. Loses.
Runs for Senate again. Loses again.
Elected President. War starts one month later and ends      
   five days before his death.
Delivers Gettysburg Address. Not received well, audience      
   and organizers deeming it a failure. Chicago Times      calls it “silly, flat and dishwatery.”


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Member Comments

  • Love this article. Lincoln was awesome. What a man.
  • He knew he was to change history. While President he would go walking alone in the streets with his son, and one of his aids told him that someone could kill him and he shouldn't do that. His reply was that he knew they would get him at some point, but it wouldn't stop him from going walking with his child. What a brave soul.
  • He has an amazing history and is one of my favorite presidents to read about. Great article. Donna
  • Wow! All of these failure led to the final outcome. Thanks for the article Mike. As usual, it is great.
    This is so encouraging to read and share! I'm posting this on my refridge for my family to see and be inspired too. Thanks for posting this!
  • Wow!!! Some facts that let me know I can keep on the Path!!! Thank you Mr. Lincon
  • Everytime I feel I've the worst day or month or even a lifetime, I will always come across something like this article.
  • Thanks for printing this article. It really puts a perspective on the hardships of life. I wonder what kept him going. It makes me want to learn more about him. So different than many of today's role models where winning is all that counts. It's like a cheap facade versus a solid core.

    Anyway, it makes me take a look at my life and realize there is a greater purpose even if I don't see it and to keep getting up.
  • Don't forget that his son, William, died in 1862 when Lincoln was 53. Also shortly after the Civil War began...

    --from a history teacher :)
  • LINCOLN was an awesome President. One to emulate for sure. TOOK A LICKIN' KEPT ON TICKIN'....we can learn alot of this GREAT man!!!
  • This article certainly makes rethink my own successes and failures!
  • certainly feeling better about my own "failures" today!!!
  • I loved this article. Thanks for including it. I love Abraham Lincoln!!
  • It is bittersweet to read this as President Lincoln is considered one of our better known Presidents. It is sad to know he saw so much adversity and strife in his life, but encouraging that despite it he kept going and accomplished great things. So, I am sad and inspired. We sometimes don't realize the struggles that others go through in life. It can help put our own in perspective.

About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.