While I’d never in a zillion years vote for Newt Gingrich, I’m awestruck—and more than a little inspired—by his seemingly limitless capacity to bounce back from defeat.
I mean, think about it: This is a guy who not-so-long-ago was dubbed the most hated man in America, the only house speaker ever to be sanctioned by its members. As recently as last month, his presidential campaign was floundering, polling in the single digits following his campaign staff’s mass exodus the previous June. Pundits pronounced game over.
And yet today, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, he is widely viewed as a frontrunner, playing hare to Mitt Romney’s tortoise as they vie for the lead in the Republican field.
Mulling over the latest Gingrich comeback, I couldn’t help comparing his Wile E. Coyote-esque resurgence to my own tendency to give up—sometimes even before I start.
One recent case in point: I almost didn’t start this blog. For one thing, I was convinced I’d start, and wouldn’t find any readers. This would be depressing and a little embarrassing. I recalled the words of a college classmate now a famously successful (if curmudgeonly) writer: “You know the average number of readers of a blog? One!” Who was I to think that I could add to the conversation?
This is not, to put it mildly, how Newt Gingrich thinks. Newt Gingrich is convinced that he has something to offer the world. And if you don’t agree with him, it’s your problem not his.
In fairness, this sort of against-the-odds confidence is far easier to come by if you’re a narcissist or a sociopath or trend towards bipolar mania. There’s a brilliant scene in Gary Trudeau’s presidential campaign mockumentary Tanner ’88 where a seasoned political reporter educates a younger colleague on this point. “We’re talking about someone who wants to be the most powerful person on the planet,” he says. “We’re not talking well balanced.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but you get the idea.)
That being said, those of us living in Plan B Nation have a special need for the sort of chutzpah demonstrated by Gingrich and his ilk. We live in an era where positive reinforcements are in increasingly short supply. Perhaps for the first time ever, we’re facing repeated rejections and setbacks in our professional lives. We have to find ways to keep going when it feels more sensible to give up.
A primary goal of this blog is to identify concrete strategies that help us do just that. For me, a supportive community has been a big piece of this. I’ve also found it helps to make an effort to keep an open mind, to remind myself that I really don’t know where the events in my life are leading.
And now I have another strategy to add to my arsenal. The next time, I’m feeling like a failure, struggling to move on, I’m going to sit down and ask myself: “What would Newt Gingrich do?”
© 2011, amy gutman. All rights reserved.