Why Newt Gingrich is my new role model

Newt Gingrich  For President 2012

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?”