Edward M. Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, once called Lincoln “a damn fool.” Stanton was indignant because Lincoln had been meddling in Stanton’s affairs. In order to please a selfish politician, Lincoln had signed an order transferring certain regiments. Stanton not only refused to carry out Lincoln’s orders, but swore that Lincoln was a damn fool for ever signing such orders.
What happened? When Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, Lincoln calmly replied: “If Stanton said I am a damned fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I’ll just step over and see for myself.”
Lincoln did go to see Stanton and Stanton convinced him that the order was wrong, and Lincoln withdrew it. Lincoln welcomed criticism when he knew it was sincere, founded on knowledge, and given in a spirit of helpfulness.
Dale Carnegie said that you and I ought to welcome that kind of criticism, too, for we can’t even hope to be right more than three times out of four. At least, that was all Theodore Roosevelt said he could hope for, when he was in the White House. Even Einstein, the most profound thinker of our time, confessed that his conclusions were wrong ninety-nine percent of the time!
The next time a colleague or competitor puts forth a less-than-admirable statement about you, remember the words of noted French author, Francois La Rochefoucauld, who said, “The opinions of our enemies come nearer to the truth about us than do our own opinions.”
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