The Has-Been Who Saved the World

April Fool's! We're not turning our backs on investing -- though we did fool some of you.

You may have heard of this person. As a young boy he spoke with a lisp, and he wasn't much of a student. Early on, his somewhat cold parents sent him away to boarding school. They didn't visit him all that much, despite the boy's tear-stained letters home.

He went on to college at a military academy and eventually pursued a career in journalism and politics. He soon became a very successful politician and was asked to head up his country's navy during World War I. Unfortunately, his impulsiveness and recklessness led to a colossal military disaster. Our man was forced out of his job at the navy as a result.

After the war, he switched political parties and became more and more unpopular with his countrymen. By the 1930s, even his fellow party members viewed him as an extremist because of his outdated views on imperialism and the monarchy.

In his personal life, he was a man of hearty appetites. He drank Scotch and water in the mornings before consuming considerable amounts of alcohol at mealtimes. In addition (or perhaps as a result), his relationships with friends and colleagues were tumultuous. And despite earning a lot of money as a writer, he spent his income lavishly and often found himself in difficult financial circumstances.

Despite his unpopularity with the electorate and his fellow party members, he returned to the navy at the beginning of World War II. For many years, his combativeness had been seen as a liability. Now it was viewed as an asset.

Soon it became clear to everyone, however, that the overall war was being badly run, and something more was needed. And that's when our man -- with all of his faults and failures -- was asked to take control of the entire war effort as prime minister of Great Britain.

Upon becoming prime minister, Winston Churchill felt "... as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial."

Blood, toil, tears, and sweat
This brief tale provides us with two instructive takeaways. The first one is that adversity can be a great teacher. Churchill's experience in the navy, despite the failure at Gallipoli, made him a better war leader. And his lifelong experience as a writer and a speaker made him an outstanding communicator at a time when that was desperately needed.

The second lesson is that drinking Scotch in the morning won't necessarily prevent you from achieving your dreams. I'd advise against it, however, just to be on the safe side.

The Motley Fool is taking a break from investing. Read more here.

John Reeves agrees with the view that all babies look like Winston Churchill. He does not own any shares in any company, person, or government agency mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that will one day save the world.

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John Reeves

John is a senior editor focusing on investigations and financial reform. He's been with the Fool for almost ten years.

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