Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Have You Read - A Message to Garcia?

Have you read A Message to Garcia?

If not, it is not surprising. Simple because it is irrelevant in this time and age. 

If you would like to read it now, you can read pages 15 to 23 of this document

What prompted me to write about this short essay by Elbert Hubbard from 1899 is that, surprisingly, a lot of corporate leaders have been picking this up recently. 

But, that is not a good sign. 

Why? Take a look at some of the reviews for this essay on Goodreads:

You get a general idea of how people feel about this essay now?

I completely agree with Hubbard when he says, "My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the “boss” is away, as well as when he is at home". But, apart from this, the essay is merely a rant about how difficult it is to be the Boss! 

Now, I cannot predict if this made sense in 1899 when he wrote it. But a hundred years later, this does not make sense at all. Especially for learned corporate leaders to use this story to drive a point, any point at all, to someone in the knowledge-worker industry.

It is completely unfair to thrust this in the faces of employees - This is not the Military. And, it is not year 1899. And, we are not tightening screws on the production line (not that it requires no intelligence). When the world is moving in a direction where even the people doing the most mundane of jobs are rewarded for coming up with out-of-the-box solutions to increase efficiency, preaching to 'just zip-it and follow orders' is regressive.

That being said, this is probably why this essay has now been dropped from the Marine Corps Commandant's Professional Reading List where it has featured since the list's debut in 1989. Refer to the extract below explaining why this essay was dropped:


So, even the US Military now feels that the essay is no more relevant. And more surprisingly, it is historically inaccurate too. Click on the source link above to read further.

Knowing more about a task not only enables a person to do it in the most efficient and effective way possible (thereby saving a lot of time, money and energy), it also gives one a sense of ownership and pride in doing it. 

In comparison, The Go-Getter by Peter B. Kyne is actually a much better read. Although, I have my issues with this book in forcing the protagonist to challenge his own morality to complete a task, I feel that every person should have their own "Blue Vase" that they should work tirelessly (and ethically!) towards.

A Message to Garcia has had a fantastic run - selling more than 40 million copies in 37 languages and even inspiring 2 motion pictures. But, it is time for us to let it rest now. May we encourage and create a new generation that thrives on asking Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How!

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