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Old 12-23-2008, 16:33   #1
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A Message to Garcia


A Message to Garcia

By Elbert Hubbard

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.

What to do!

Some one said to the President, "There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- "Carry a message to Garcia!"

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, & half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, & sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office- six clerks are within call.

Summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio".

Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?

On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don’t you mean Bismarck?

What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia- and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.

Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night, holds many a worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply, can neither spell nor punctuate- and do not think it necessary to.

Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

"You see that bookkeeper," said the foreman to me in a large factory.

"Yes, what about him?"

"Well he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street, would forget what he had been sent for."

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the "downtrodden denizen of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment," & with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer- but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go.

It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best- those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself."

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slip-shod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude, which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry & homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds- the man who, against great odds has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.

I have carried a dinner pail & worked for day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; & all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village- in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia.

Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

Still want to quit?
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Old 12-23-2008, 21:52   #2
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Splended post Sir.

Speaking from personal experience that is a tough row to hoe, your fellow co-workers tend to have a distain for those that carry the message and will do all in their power to prevent the you the messenger from achieveing the goal.

All because they want to stay in their comfort zone of mediocrity.
When a man dies, if nothing is written, he is soon forgotten.
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Old 12-24-2008, 07:55   #3
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FBNC MCSS was selling this last year. I gave both of my neices their own copy as part of a Christmas present. Not very "little girl gift" but if it helps them prepare for life it was worthwhile.
A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero (42B.C)
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Old 12-24-2008, 08:16   #4
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A great story. I tasked my more hard headed lieutenants to read this and report back their findings on completion. A fantastic short story to show the importance of initiative, task/purpose based operations, and achieving commander's intent.

This should be required reading for WLC and all officer basic courses.
Example is better than precept.
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Old 12-24-2008, 08:42   #5
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The 'story' of the story is just as interesting.

Richard's $.02

A Message to Garcia is an inspirational essay written by Elbert Hubbard that has been made into two motion pictures. It was originally published as a filler without a title in the March, 1899 issue of the Philistine magazine which he edited, but was quickly reprinted as a pamphlet and a book. It was wildly popular, selling over 40 million copies, and being translated into 37 languages. It also became a well-known allusion in American popular and business culture until the middle of the twentieth century.

The essay celebrates the initiative of a soldier who is assigned and accomplishes a daunting mission. He asks no questions, makes no objections, requests no help, but accomplishes the mission. The essay exhorts the reader to apply this attitude to his own life as an avenue to success. Its wide popularity reflected the general appeal of self-reliance and energetic problem solving in American culture. Its "don't ask questions, get the job done" message was often used by business leaders as a motivational message to their employees.

It was given to every U.S. Navy enlistee and U.S. Marine in both world wars, and often memorized by schoolchildren. It is studied by plebes at the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy. A copy of it is often given to Marine Non-Commissioned Officers upon their promotion. It is estimated to be one of the highest-selling books in history, essentially due to American employers purchasing copies in bulk to distribute to their employees.

The historical setting of the essay was the onset of the Spanish-American War in 1898. As the American army prepared to invade the Spanish colony of Cuba, they wished to contact the leader of the Cuban insurgents who controlled the plains of the Cauto to coordinate or at least prevent conflicting strategies. This was Calixto García e Iñiguez, who had been fighting the Spanish for Cuban independence since the Ten Years' War of 1868–78, and sought the help of the United States. He was then residing in the city of Bayamo. The American officer was Andrew Summers Rowan, a West Point graduate of 1881.

This "enlightened, inspirational" interpretation prevails today, despite the fact Rowan was hidden by Cuban rebels in Jamaica before his being taken to Cuba; was met by 200 cavalry and delivered to Garcia; was held by the British quarantine in the Bahamas for ten days; and the sole immediate recognition he received was to be given combat command of a company of U.S. Army "Immunes," who were African American troops assumed to be immune to jungle diseases. The Immunes died as quickly as any troops once infected, in a brief war that killed more U.S. personnel by malaria than by bullets.

In fact, "A Message to Garcia" may have been intended to embarrass Hubbard's son, Bert, into more responsible action at the Philistine magazine and other elements of Hubbard's egalitarian gathering of artists and craftsmen in East Aurora, New York.

Elbert Hubbard died with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, en route with his wife to England and Berlin on a mission to encourage an end of war. He was optimistic in this endeavor, despite a notice in the New York Times warning that vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, could be sunk.

Major Andrew Rowan died obscurely in the Presidio of San Francisco. It was 22 years before the Army decorated him for this mission.
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” - To Kill A Mockingbird (Atticus Finch)

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” - Robert Heinlein
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Old 12-29-2008, 11:11   #6
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Good story with a valuable lesson. My first SF company commander gave a copy to all new team leaders to read after reporting in to the company.
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:18   #7
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Originally Posted by Paslode View Post
Splended post Sir.

Speaking from personal experience that is a tough row to hoe, your fellow co-workers tend to have a distain for those that carry the message and will do all in their power to prevent the you the messenger from achieveing the goal.

All because they want to stay in their comfort zone of mediocrity.
Isn't that the truth! Witnessed that first hand, saddening what others will do to "further" themselves.
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Old 03-03-2015, 17:04   #8
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During the late 1980's this was required reading/one page report, at the Infantry Officer Basic Course (IOBC).
"Excellence is its own punishment..."
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Old 04-08-2015, 02:37   #9
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I took the opportunity to use "A Message to Garcia" with my cold, wet, hungry, and tired assessment candidates during a physical recovery and personal admin time period.

It provides a great window into their cognitive ability while under stress, helps us understand their mindset, and it is just a great short story that timelessly encompasses our desired end state in successful candidates.

Cheers to the forum and its members for sharing in detail.
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Old 04-08-2015, 18:14   #10
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I recently wrote an article on LinkedIn about this!

A Message to Garcia - A note about ownership.

Recently I was reading an excellent article on why American businesses should hire Green Berets. Deep in the article, there was an excerpt from an interview stating, “All I want is someone who can just get the Message to Garcia.” I was immediately taken back in time about 20 years to when my old Team Sergeant (Boss) gave me a very small, hard backed book that fit in the palm of my hand – A Message to Garcia.

A Message to Garcia is an essay written in 1899 about an incident during the Spanish-American War. It tells a story about a very capable young American military officer tasked to deliver a message to General Calixto Garcia, a Cuban revolutionary fighting against the Spanish. The gist of the story is that this young officer, Lieutenant Andrew Rowan, was given a seemingly impossible task and, without question, accepted and completed the task. He delivered the message to Garcia.

It’s nice to think that there are people out there in our lives and in our workplaces who will step up to challenging tasks and simply execute them. Most bosses want a workforce full of Rowans who will accept all challenges without hesitation. But the moral of the story might be hiding the more important subtext. When Rowan took the mission, he was not given a laundry list of constraints, meeting appointments, conflicting agendas, a schedule of due-outs, or reporting requirements. It was very simple… “Get the message to Garcia.” Lieutenant Rowan had one mission…one objective…one priority.

When my old boss gave me the book, it had an impact on me, and I strove to be Rowan throughout my military career. That was what I thought the Army wanted. However, as the years wore on, I realized that there was some duplicity in my superiors. They wanted me to salute, say “yes sir,” and execute; but, they were quick to lay constraint upon constraint upon constraint. I had to get permission for every move, submit proposals about how I intended to deliver my message, report my progress on a rigid schedule (to support their briefing calendars), submit risk assessments and contingency plans for every step, coordinate with 6 different organizations who might have a stake in the message, and…well, you see where I am going here.

Executives and senior officers often say things like, “All I want is someone who can just get the Message to Garcia,” but in reality most do not trust the Lieutenant Rowans of the world to carry that message. Trust is risky! Business and operational decisions once made by junior managers have been elevated to the top. Front line supervisors are so busy reporting to middle managers that they are unable to do their jobs for the reporting requirements. Employees who are the primary interface with the customer are not permitted to make decisions. When Rowan took the mission, it was his…he owned it...and he would report back when complete. Of course, he didn’t have a cell phone, laptop, wi-fi, blackberry, or other modern tether.

General George Patton once said, “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you will be amazed at the results.” If executives really want more Rowans and more messages delivered to the Garcias of the world, than they need to assign the task, expect success, and stay out of the way. If the Rowans want to be left alone to deliver the message, they need to own the task and prove they don’t need to be micromanaged. My new favorite statement on the topic is from Joachim Ahlstrom, “ownership is a prerequisite for using one’s full potential.”

Thanks to my good friend and mentor, Charles (Chuck) Jenkins, for giving me A Message to Garcia so long ago. I encourage everyone to read this essay and take its timeless message to heart.
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