Very few know about James K. Polk. Something I learned from him is affirmed in my own philosophy from this lesser known US President of the 19th century. Polk was president when the United States added the greatest amount of new territory to the country. During his presidency, the American flag was raised over most of the area now forming nine Western States, and Texas became a member of the Union. Polk successfully directed the Mexican War, which won much of this territory. He carried out every item of his political program. Of all other American presidents, only George Washington had such a clear record of success.
Despite his successful term, he was described as cold, silent, narrow and an ungenerous. Polk only wanted to serve one term and most people didn’t regret this choice. In reading about his leadership style, this is what I learned. He was a “take charge” type of person, rarely delegating, involved in minutia in almost every aspect of his administration. He rarely took time off for a vacation and after four hard years of work, his term was up. Just three months after leaving office, while still in his early 50s, he passed away suddenly from illness brought on by cholera.
Does stress breed illness? Does it affect our immune systems? Is time off really necessary to sustain good mental and physical health?
What type of behavior do you model? In your business? With your family? Do you delegate? Do you let go of things that aren’t as important? Do you take time all the time to stop and smell the roses? When was the last time you took a long weekend or a real vacation? Have you planned your next one?
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