THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson
King George III asked Benjamin West, his American painter, what George Washington would do if he prevailed in the Revolutionary War. West replied, “He will return to his farm.” The British monarch incredulously said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” On December 23, 1783 Washington did just that and retired to Mount Vernon – despite the encouragement of many to stay in power. Despite the willingness of Americans to crown him king. Thirteen years later, he would do it once again.
In 1787, Washington was coaxed back to Philadelphia to attend the Constitutional Convention. While there he provided the leadership necessary to get the fractious delegates to settle down and complete the work of designing a new constitution. Afterwards, in 1789, he was elected the first President of the United States. He reluctantly ran for a second term in 1792. He refused to run for a third term, setting a precedent that lasted 150 years, and retired once again to his farm.
Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test a man’s character – give him power.” George Washington passed that test. Twice in his life he walked away from power and proved that he was indeed the greatest man in the world. He demonstrated that leadership is something that you give – not take – and that power should be used responsibly.
Washington died in 1799, the year that Napoleon Bonaparte became the ruler of France. In contrast to Washington, Napoleon could not acquire enough power. His legendary lust for command drove him to take over much of Europe. “Power is my mistress,” he once claimed, “I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.”
Years later, having lost all power and living in exile, he lamented “They wanted me to be another Washington.”
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit: