If you're looking to learn about a subject, no matter the discipline, history is often going to be your greatest teacher. Through a study of history, you can accumulate mentors, dangers to be on the lookout for, business principles from America's first billionaire, and much more.

As I continually seek knowledge to help me grow, I also revisit figures who I may have overlooked growing up. One of those happens to be Ulysses S. Grant. A civil war general and the 18th President of the United States, Grant's improbable journey was filled with numerous triumphs and struggles. 

Curious to learn more, I committed to reading (or more accurately listening to) the meticulously researched book by Ron Chernow titled 'Grant'. There were numerous lessons in this 1000+ page book, but these three lessons stuck out the most when it came to adopting a winner's mentality and ultimately becoming your best.

1. We all need help (whether we admit or not)

As great of a leader Grant was, he still had a weakness that threatened his success. That potential chokehold was alcohol. Luckily Grant had a supporting cast with his best interest in mind. Those two people who helped keep him on the right path were John Rawlins and his wife Julia.

The lesson here is to surround yourself with people who have your best interest in mind and can help mitigate your weaknesses. Michael Jordan didn't win six titles by himself, Grant wasn't able to propel the army without assistance, and you won't be able to achieve your biggest goals without a supporting cast.

2. Indecision is worse than the wrong decision

In Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822-1865 by Brooks Simpson, when asked about if his strategy is going to work, Grant simply states:

"No, I am not, but in war anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong, we shall soon find it out and can do the other thing. But not to decide wastes both time and money and may ruin everything."

One thing I'm learning as I read more and more history books is the power of decisions--whether right or wrong.

On the battlefield, hesitancy comes with a powerful cost concerning people's lives. While entrepreneurship and achieving your goals isn't a matter of life or death, there's still a powerful cost for being indecisive. 

Making the wrong decision isn't ideal, but procrastinating making a decision is even worse as it costs time and money while providing no lessons of feedback for future implementation.

3. Act with the big picture in mind 

As I read through the book, I noticed that Grant lost more battles than I initially remembered. While he lost a multitude of battles, Grant won the war due to keeping the big picture in mind at all times.

In health and business, just like winning a war, thinking about the context and various variables in play are critical. It's never just about what's in front of you at the moment. As Ray Dalio teaches in Principles, considering the second and third order consequences are a necessity.

Ulysses S. Grant was far from perfect, encountered many demons on a daily basis, and had peaks and valleys on his climb to success mountain. If this sounds basic, it's because it is. Adopting a winners mentality doesn't require complexity, it merely requires grit and consistency.

Published on: Dec 27, 2018
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