Abraham Lincoln Was A Geek: The Advantages of Mastery and Deep Knowledge

What You Say When You Hear People Describe Abraham Lincoln As Just A Folksy Small-Town Lawyer
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

Tell them that Abraham Lincoln was a geek–that he was indeed a lawyer, and a very good one, and that his practice was in a small town, Springfield, Illinois. But tell them that the 16th President also had geek-like qualities.

Let me explain. The word “geek” has come to mean someone who is immersed in a particular subject to an extreme that is beyond normal. We speak of “sports geeks” or “social media geeks” or “political geeks.” The word always indicates deep knowledge.

And that describes Lincoln beautifully. By the time he became President, Lincoln had already acquired deep knowledge of a specialized field of law–patent law and copyrights. And he also had deep knowledge of voting behavior.

If Lincoln were alive today, he would be giving interviews to the media, and a TV guest on election nights. He had a firm grasp of voting patterns, turnout, and trends.

Here is how Lincoln comported himself the night of the 1860 presidential election. He, along with several companions, spent the evening in the second-floor office of the Illinois & Western Telegraph Company.

One of the people in the room–a journalist by the name of Thurlow Weed–described the returns that were coming in as “Greek to me…but Mr. Lincoln seemed to understand their bearing on the general result in the State and commented upon every return by way of comparison with previous elections. He understood at a glance whether it was a loss or gain to his party.”

And here is the way one authoritative biography–Nicolay and Hay–describes Lincoln’s geek-like ability: “He was completely at home among election figures. All his political life he had scanned tables of returns with as much care and accuracy as he analyzed and scrutinized maxims of government and platforms of parties. Now, as formerly,he was familiar with all the turning points in contested counties and ‘close’ districts, and knew by heart the value of each and every local loss or gain, and its relation to the grand result.”

Obviously, not just a small-town lawyer at work here.

Whatyousay.com believes a fundamental truth for all of us is revealed as well. It’s an achievement factor.  If you intend to become a high achiever in any field, you need to possess deep knowledge of at least one thing.

Bear in mind that deep knowledge and communication skill need not be mutually exclusive. You really don’t have to choose one or the other. Put another way, it’s important to be able to tell what you know, but it is equally important to know what you tell. 

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—Gene Griessman is an award-winning professional speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-435-2225 or abe@mindspring.com Learn more about Gene Griessman at presidentlincoln.com and atlantaspeakersbureau.com

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