The Lesson Not Learned

Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf:

[In early September, 1907], went to Vienna to take the entrance examination for the Academy of Fine Arts. Armed with a bulky packet of sketches, I felt convinced that I should pass the examination quite easily. At the Realschule I was by far the best student in the drawing class, and since that time I had made more than ordinary progress in the practice of drawing. Therefore I was pleased with myself and was proud and happy at the prospect of what I considered an assured success

However, it was not to be. Young Adolf passed the initial test (33 out of 146 applicants failed) and was allowed to proceed to the examination proper. At the beginning of October, he took two tough three-hour exams in which the applicants had to produce drawings on stipulated themes. Only twenty-eight candidates passed. And Adolf Hitler was not among them. “Test drawing unsatisfactory” – was the verdict. He failed.

Later he wrote in Mein Kampf:

I was so convinced that I would be successful that when I received my rejection, it struck me as a bolt from the blue

It shouldn’t have. In fact, this failure presented young Adolf with a vitally important lesson (that, alas, he did not learn) and with a critically important test that he totally and absolutely failed.

It was not a problem at all that he failed the entrance test to the Academy of Fine Arts, but failing this test was. A very serious problem that ultimately cost him his dream, his war and his life.

This failure exposed probably the most crucial character flaw of Adolf Hitler – his total lack of humility. Completely unacceptable for the genuinely great leader.

One of the keys to success in any endeavor is to know precisely when to press on and when to back off; when to persevere against all odds and when to give up, changing either the chosen path to your objective – or the objective itself.

Which requires the ability to correctly determine (as early as possible) whether you are chasing the right objective – and whether you are on the right track to the objective in question.

Which requires humility – accepting the fact that no matter how certain you are about your objective and the road to this objective – you still can be wrong about the one or the other. Consequently, you must always scan your environment for the signs that will tell you whether you are pursuing the right objective and chose the right path to your goal.

Unfortunately for him, Adolf Hitler did not have this humility. Instead of humility, he developed a tunnel vision, became way too obsessed about becoming a great artist and totally ignored the signs that simply screamed that he was chasing the entirely wrong dream. And thus was wasting years of vitally important and valuable time.

Rejection by the Academy of Fine Arts should have taught him an extremely valuable lesson. Doubt everything. Look for the signs that you are on the wrong track to a wrong objective. Find the right objective and the right path to this objective.

But Adolf Hitler did not listen. And later in life he will repeat the same mistake over and over again. He will get obsessed by an idea and begin to stubbornly pursue it against all odds.

This obsession, reinforced by his deep (and often erroneous) belief that he was guided by the omniscient Providence, ultimately destroyed his dreams, his country and his life. Causing him to lose the war – and ultimately to lose his life.


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