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Sometimes, losses lead to victories

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in Leaders & Managers

After leading the first U.S. bombing of Japan, within months of Pearl Harbor, Lt. Col. James Doolittle had to ditch his B-25 on a mountaintop in China. Only one of his 16 bombers landed safely. Several fliers died during the mission, and several more were captured and executed. Even though he thought the raid had succeeded—it was, in fact, the first U.S. victory in the Pacific—Doolittle felt he’d failed his men. Looking over the wreckage of his plane, he told a sergeant he figured he’d go to federal prison at Leavenworth.

Even a month later, with two general staking him to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor, Doolittle protested. He said the medal was supposed to go to someone who had saved a life. He said he hadn’t earned it.

“I think you earned it,” said Gen.George Marshall.

Lesson: You can’t always see your big-picture victories through the disappointment of short-term losses.

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