Success: What Churchill REALLY Said

Success: What Churchill REALLY Said

It is Com­mence­ment time across col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, and some speak­ers will be quot­ing Churchill on suc­cess in life. In the hope that they will quote him accu­rate­ly, here is a small selec­tion. Two com­mon mis­quotes are at the bottom.

University of Miami, 26 February 1946:

I am sur­prised that in my lat­er life I should have become so expe­ri­enced in tak­ing degrees, when, as a school-boy I was so bad at pass­ing exam­i­na­tions. In fact one might almost say that no one ever passed so few exam­i­na­tions and received so many degrees. From this a super­fi­cial thinker might argue that the way to get the most degrees is to fail in the most examinations. 

This would how­ev­er, Ladies and Gen­tle­men, be a con­clu­sion uned­i­fy­ing in the aca­d­e­m­ic atmos­phere in which I now preen myself, and I there­fore has­ten to draw anoth­er moral with which I am sure we shall all be in accord: name­ly, that no boy or girl should ever be dis­heart­ened by lack of suc­cess in their youth but should dili­gent­ly and faith­ful­ly con­tin­ue to per­se­vere and make up for lost time. There at least is a sen­ti­ment which I am sure the Fac­ul­ty and the Pub­lic, the schol­ars and the dunces, will all be cor­dial­ly unit­ed upon. —WSC

Churchill on success – guaranteed genuine

Churchill said much about suc­cess in life and pol­i­tics, but he is fre­quent­ly mis­quot­ed. But gen­uine expres­sions also exist. Here are some of the things that he actu­al­ly said, con­firmed in Churchill By Him­self –in chrono­log­i­cal order, with citations:

“You must put your head into the lion’s mouth if the per­for­mance is to be a suc­cess.” –19 Feb­ru­ary 1900, South Africa, Lon­don to Lady­smith via Pre­to­ria, 1900.

“…do not be car­ried away by suc­cess into demand­ing more than is right or pru­dent.” —House of Com­mons, 3 March 1919

Do not be fobbed off with mere per­son­al suc­cess or accep­tance. You will make all kinds of mis­takes; but as long as you are gen­er­ous and true, and also fierce, you can­not hurt the world or even seri­ous­ly dis­tress her…. She has lived and thrived only by repeat­ed sub­ju­ga­tions.” –My Ear­ly Life, 1930

“Of course we realise that suc­cess can­not be guar­an­teed. There are no safe bat­tles.” —The Sec­ond World War, IV, 277.  WSC to Gen­er­al Auchin­leck, 20 May 1942. He was urg­ing “a tri­al of strength in Cyrenaica…the sur­vival of Mal­ta is involved.”

”…no boy or girl should ever be dis­heart­ened by lack or suc­cess in their youth but should dili­gent­ly and faith­ful­ly con­tin­ue to per­se­vere and make up for lost time.” –Speech, Uni­ver­si­ty of Mia­mi (Fla.), 26 Feb­ru­ary 1946

Suc­cess always demands a greater effort.” –13 Decem­ber 1940 to Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Robert Men­zies, Their Finest Hour, 1949

…no one can guar­an­tee suc­cess in war, but only deserve it.” —Their Finest Hour, 1949

What he never said…

The fol­low­ing are all over the web and includ­ed in a num­ber of Churchill quo­ta­tion books. These are not his words:

• Suc­cess is going from fail­ure to fail­ure with no loss of enthu­si­asm. (Broad­ly attrib­uted to Churchill, but found nowhere in his canon. An almost equal num­ber of sources cred­it this to Abra­ham Lin­coln; but none pro­vides attri­bu­tion to either Lin­coln or WSC.)

• Suc­cess is not final, fail­ure is not fatal: it is the courage to con­tin­ue that counts. (No attribution.)

4 thoughts on “Success: What Churchill REALLY Said

  1. So basi­cal­ly what he actu­al­ly said/wrote was VASTLY more sober than what is usu­al­ly quot­ed in “self-help” books or life quotes. Inter­est­ing. In fact what he said was rather pathet­ic [in terms of inspi­ra­tion] in the long run.

  2. It was the Amer­i­can writer Win­ston Churchill who wrote Suc­cess is going from fail­ure to fail­ure with­out los­ing enthu­si­asm” [URL sup­plied to Goodreads].
    Your URL is delet­ed because a URL is not an opin­ion. We are inter­est­ed in your opin­ions. Ref­er­ence how­ev­er to Goodreads dis­clos­es this as noth­ing more than an asser­tion. It car­ries no attri­bu­tion to the Amer­i­can novelist–no quote from his writ­ings, or an inter­view, or his cor­re­spon­dence, or any­thing else. I’d like noth­ing bet­ter than to declare it was him. But no evi­dence has been pre­sent­ed. -RML

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