Business, Community & Government

The Importance of Relaxing and Recharging

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lesson time 16:43 min

Using examples from the lives of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris illustrates why recharging is essential for leadership, especially for solving complex problems and making high-stakes decisions with a clear mind.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Unwind With Exercise · Let Yourself Be Social · Don’t Deplete Your Energy · Give Yourself Time to Think · Find a Place of Respite · Set Boundaries for Downtime · Balance Your Personal Life With Your Work Life · Understand Your Ways of Working


[MUSIC PLAYING] - The most underappreciated leadership strength is the ability to relax and replenish energies. In our world today, so many of us feel we don't have time to take off, to relax. Our communication devices go everywhere with us. People can reach us at any moment. We're too busy to relax and replenish. And yet the people I studied, they were pretty busy. Lincoln actually went to the theater more than 100 times during the Civil War. They said when the lights went down and a Shakespeare play came on, for a few precious hours he could forget the war that was raging. And people would criticize him. How can you go to the theater when the Civil War is happening? He said, if I didn't go, the anxiety would kill me. But his greatest form of relaxation was his ability to tell stories and his gift for humor. In the middle of the worst Cabinet meetings, he would come up with a story that was funny and make people laugh. There's something about laughter that is so soothing for the human spirit. And Lincoln understood that. He was a great storyteller. When he was a young lawyer on the circuit in Illinois, they used to travel, the judges and the lawyers together, from one county courthouse to the next. And when anyone knew Lincoln was in town, they'd come for hours around to listen to him tell a story. He could stand with his back against the fire in a tavern and entertain the crowd. Now sometimes these stories had a moral like the "Aesop's Fables" he loved as a child. But sometimes they were just simply hilarious. He once said that humor whistled off sadness, that a good story for him was better than a drop of whiskey, so that was his way of relaxing. Teddy Roosevelt relaxed by exercising two hours every afternoon. He had had asthma as a child so he needed to build up his body from the time he was young. So he would have a raucous game of tennis, or a wrestling match, or a boxing match, but his favorite form of relaxation was to take a hike in the wooded cliffs of Rock Creek Park. So he'd take people along. And he had a rule. You had to move point to point. If you came to a rock, you had to climb it. If you came to a precipice, you had to go down it. So there were stories of everybody falling by the wayside on these ridiculous hikes with Teddy Roosevelt. But the best story was told by the ambassador from France, Jules Jusserand. He went to the White House for his first walk with the president. He said I was so excited I wore my silk outfit as if we'd be strolling along the Champs Elysees. He gets into the woods. He cannot keep up with Roosevelt. Finally, they come to a river, the Potomac River. And he says, thank god, he says in his mind. It's over. We'll go back to the White House. And then he wrote, "Judge of my horror when I saw the president unbutton his clothes and heard him say, it's an obstacle. We can't go around it. No sense in getting our clothes wet. So I too for the honor of France took off my apparel. Ho...

About the Instructor

For more than 50 years, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has studied great American presidents. Now the Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you leadership through the lens of U.S. presidential history. With timeless stories of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ, Doris shares practical wisdom and a template for honing leadership skills. Manage a crisis, craft a message, and guide a team like extraordinary leaders of the past.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin teaches you how to develop the leadership qualities of exceptional American presidents.

Explore the Class
Sign Up