It was on September 4th 1886 that Geronimo, Chief of the Apache tribe, officially surrendered to United States federal troops. He was the last holdout and his surrender meant a literal end to the Indian Wars. What made Geronimo accept defeat?
In 1858, Geronimo’s wife and children were murdered by Mexican soldiers. After this, the Apache Chief dedicated the next 30 years to bitter fighting and bloodshed to exact revenge on the government of Mexico, and then with the U.S. government as they attempted to force his people off of their land.
What made Geronimo accept defeat after 30 years of battle and an irreparable loss of Apache life? Why would he give up after such a valiant and life-consuming struggle when his goal had still not been realized? These are the top 3 things that we learn from his experiences.
1. Defeat is involuntary. Surrender is a choice.
Sometimes, the humility of giving up and/or changing course can be the key to success. Letting go of a specific course of action doesn’t indicate defeat, it just means being open to a new and different method of success. I believe that, through his surrender, Geronimo solidified his weary tribe into history books and he somehow knew that his course (and subsequent admission of defeat) would have far greater impact on the world than having taken his battle to the death. Surrender isn’t giving up your goal; it’s giving up a certain path to get there or even being open to how you visualize your goal in the first place.
2. The struggle, not the result, is what defines us.
By being focused on the goals and experience, and not necessarily on the routes we take to get there, leadership is far more likely to foster an environment of growth and transparency. These culture qualities are then more likely to assist in the accomplishment of team goals. People bond over obstacles. The issues that your team faces over meeting a goal will eventually serve as the glue that hold them together. Not to mention that, through struggle, victory above all odds is that much sweeter.
3. There’s no room for personal agendas in the big picture.
It’s important to routinely stop and consider if our own, independent version of success is still relevant for the good of the company mission. Big picture thinking has a way of pulling you out of your head and into the game with everyone else. Geronimo was able to push aside his own agenda of revenge and see the big picture. Through his surrender, his fight became synonymous with the violation of his people’s rights, instead of just being about him. Had Geronimo not altered his personal vision of his mission; history might have missed his notoriety and the fearless way he fought for himself and others.