Powerful Habits of the Greatest Presidents – And How the Leading 2016 Candidates Stack Up

Tom Corley boats - cropWhat makes a President great? There are many factors at work, but behind every great President are certain habits that make them stand out among their peers. In my Rich Habits study I identified over 300 habits that are responsible for success in life. I’d like to share some of those Presidential Rich Habits and then see how the 2016 candidates’ habits stack up. I’ve scoured most of the lists you’d find on Google and the following five Presidents, listed in alphabetical order by first name, seem to consistently pop up:

Abraham Lincoln

  • Persistence – This is one habit every self-made millionaire in my study possessed. And it is one Abraham Lincoln shared. Our 16th President just did not quit. There were days during the Civil War that Lincoln fell into deep depression. In the beginning of the war things could not have gone any worse. One battle after another was lost, tens of thousands of Union soldiers were killed in the first months of the war. Lincoln’s cabinet and much of the country lost faith in him. But there was no quit in Lincoln. He was always able to rally himself, his cabinet and the country by his words. He hung in there even with the loss of his son. Most individuals would have crumbled or quit under the pressure he faced. There just was no quit in his vocabulary.
  • Reading – It’s well-known that Lincoln was a devoted reader. He read to learn almost every day of his life. Through reading, he became self-educated. His knowledge of things astounded others. Reading helped pull Lincoln out of poverty and into the White House.

Dwight Eisenhower

  • Attention to Detail – President Eisenhower was not one to leave the details up to others. During the planning of the Normandy Invasion, Eisenhower immersed himself in every detail down to the weather on the day of the invasion.
  • Optimistic Outlook – Eisenhower made optimism a daily habit. He admitted, after serving as President, that he suffered daily with doubt and depression but felt it was the duty of every leader to exude confidence. So, Eisenhower learned to control his natural negative thoughts and emotions and made a habit out of exuding optimism.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • Fearless – FDR never once doubted that the United States would be victorious in its war against Germany, Japan and Italy. He should have. It took two years alone for the U.S. to mobilize its resources. Factories across the U.S. had to be converted overnight into war machines. Sixteen million soldiers had to be called up and shipped oversees to wage war. Allies, defeated and occupied by German forces, had to rally from within these occupied territories, in order to make it more difficult for German forces to maintain control. And all the while the U.S. was still recovering from the Great Depression. FDR’s famous speech to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked sums up his fearlessness best: “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

George Washington

  • Control Thoughts and Emotions – When George Washington was sixteen he took the time to write down each and every one of the 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. These rules formed the template for the life he would lead. Many who knew Washington best saw a man who did not wear his emotions on his sleeve. He was the master of self control. Never happy, sad nor angry, at least in public, is how most remembered him.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  • Dream Big – Most of the successful individuals in my Rich Habits study were big dreamers. JFK was no different. In fact, aside from his assassination, he is best known as the President who promised to put a man on the moon by the end of 1969. His moon speech rallied an entire country of dreamers.


How Do the 2016 Candidates Stack Up?

Donald Trump

Trump shares FDR’s fearlessness, Lincoln’s obsession with reading and Eisenhower’s attention to detail. This formidable combination of Rich Habits may be why he currently leads the pack. Trump’s fearlessness is perhaps his most powerful habit. He says what he believes to be the truth and despite being attacked from every corner, never waivers. In fact, he doubles down by attacking those who attack him.

Dr. Ben Carson

Dr. Carson, like Lincoln, pulled himself out of poverty by reading. Reading was forced upon him as a habit by his mother as a young boy. His mom cleaned the houses of wealthy people and studied how they raised their children. She noticed that the parents in these wealthy households made their kids read and limited how much T.V. they watched.  She decided to emulate them and replaced the T.V. with books. Carson admits in his own books that, at first, he did not like or want to read. But he had no choice in the matter. Reading eventually became a daily habit. Through his reading, he discovered that most millionaires were self-made. It dawned on him that if other poor people could go from rags to riches, so too could he. His reading took him from an average student to a straight A student, on to college and then on to medical school. The self made millionaires in my study, like Carson, read every day to learn.

Ted Cruz

Cruz shares FDR’s fearlessness and Eisenhower’s attention to detail and optimistic outlook. Cruz is well-known for attacking his fellow Republicans when he feels they have sold out their principles. It has landed him in hot water but he has never reversed course or apologized, as most politicians are prone to do.

Hillary Clinton

There is likely no candidate, more than Clinton, who shares Lincoln’s Rich Habit of persistence. Despite a failed 2008 bid to become the Democratic Presidential candidate, Clinton brushed herself off and once again threw her hat into the ring. Her habit of persistence is evident as she battles allegations of breaking the law in her email controversy. Most candidates for President would have thrown in the towel and ended their campaign by now. If Clinton survives this onslaught it will be for one reason – her habit of being persistent.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders’ devotion to Socialism flies in the face of a country which prides itself on the notion that it is still a primarily capitalistic republic. Sanders shares JFK’s dream big Rich Habit. He may be a Democrat, but he is running a race to transform America into a Socialist society. Whether or not he has the gravitas to persuade enough Americans to buy into his dream is yet to be determined.



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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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