Lessons from Lincoln the man…

lincoln I had the pleasure of meeting Sally Field, just when she had come off the shoot of Lincoln. Then I started to hear about Daniel Day Lewis’ magnificent portrayal of the man; of his achievement of voice similarity, posture etc. Sadly, I missed it at the theaters’. I consequently filed it on my memory shelf as one of those things I must make a point to do. Watch the movie.

Flight time is not a time I particularly enjoy. One of my fantasies involves time travel! Transporting from continent to continent, without long flight times… and so I am always excited to have good entertainment to take my mind off the extended time in the air. Lincoln popped out at me on the touch screen, and with dexterity, my fingers punched in the digits to give it life.

As a filmmaker, the first thing that caught my attention was the sheer beauty of the shots. For a minute or two, I lost myself in the lighting… wondering what camera was used. Was this a digital work or film? Could digital work achieve this level of contrast? This clarity in depth of field…  I made a mental note to work to achieve a number of those beautiful shots, the scene of Lincoln in the bedroom with his wife for instance at the beginning of the film. He is in the foreground, and she in the background. The skillful, subtle use of lens to shift focus and draw attention…lincoln2

Something else begins to filter through my sub-conscious mind. I make a mental note very quickly of his height. For some reason, the voice doesn’t match the stature. From scene to scene, I notice how soft spoken he is, his calm and non-threatening posture… and so my man shifts from the work of Art, to the man and a few things stand out.

His love of story: Many times, at the height of tension he comes out with a story. Story telling is a good tool for communication. I remember my persuasion lecturer Gary Oren, drumming the importance of story into my head. He would indicate that, not a story without numbers, and to use stories and metaphor to bring life to numbers. A brilliant strategy to engage your audience and used my many great speakers.

I find that almost anyone loves a story, as it puts people at ease. Perhaps, it is our implicit understanding that ‘the world is a stage’ and we are all players? Using stories to draw analogies or parallels, really helps understanding. Off course, until you overdo it. At one point, as Lincoln starts to tell a story, one of his men exclaims ‘ you are going to tell a story! Don’t tell me another one of your stories, I don’t think I can bear it!’ and stomps off. Luckily, the rest of the crew sticks around to listen.

Closely related to this gift of Lincoln, is his use of ‘sayings’ to drive home his point.   “If you can look into the seeds of time and tell me which grain will grow, and which won’t, tell it to me.” “We are fitted to the times we are born into.” He gallantly drives home his passion for the amendment to be passed when he says, “we’ve stepped out into the world stage, with the fate of human dignity in our hands.” However, a proclamation that really intrigues me, though not from Lincoln, is when in anguish, one of the representatives in the senate exclaims “I want to do right, but I have got no courage.” I find these words particularly poignant

Lincoln listened. Never rushing to make himself heard, paying attention to the speaker, seeming to give careful consideration before speaking. This takes me back to the artist Andy Goldsworthy, and the lessons his Art teaches about listening. Watch out for the current beneath the water, the music beneath the surface…It is indeed often that what we think we hear and see, is really not ‘what is at all’. The sadness behind the smile, hidden deep in those eyes, the cry for help behind that boisterous personality, the lack of confidence behind that confident demeanor…

But in all else, Lincoln remains firm and steadfast in his compassion, passion and drive to see equality granted to all men in the United States. Personally building allies and firmly telling his men, ‘you’ve got night and day and night’ enough hours to get me the votes we need.’  “I am the president of the United States of America. You will procure me those votes!”

An important lesson comes to me from years beyond… – take time to enjoy your strawberries. Despite his busy schedule, Lincoln takes time to do the things that matter most. Spending precious time with his son, little did he know, that his life would be so short. The memories of the rides he took on his dad’s back I am sure, will stay with that young boy beyond all else… Summer is hear and I intend to take some time to enjoy MY strawberries… do remember to do same maybe?


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