Getting A Message To Garcia by Mark
GormanOver 100 years ago, a brief article
was written to fill an empty space in a magazine which was otherwise
ready for publication. This seemingly insignificant work, about a
soldier in the U.S. Army, has since become one of the most published
documents in the history of printed word. "A Message To
Garcia" has been translated into every major language on earth,
with over 100 million copies in print. What was the significance of this
article, which caused such a stir around the world?
In 1899, a man by the
name of Elbert Hubbard wrote an editorial for a small magazine called
The Philistine. Over tea, Hubbard was discussing the Spanish-American
War with his family. Everyone had been cheering General Calixto Garcia,
the leader of the Cuban rebel forces, as the key to winning the war in
Cuba, when Hubbard's son, Bert, put forth this argument. "In my
mind", ventured Bert, "the real hero of the war was not
General Garcia, but Lieutenant Rowan, the man who got the message to
Garcia." His son's words leaped in Hubbard's heart.
Hubbard wrote the
article, "A Message to Garcia" and the edition went to print.
He thought little more about it until the magazine began getting
requests for re-prints of that particular edition. More and more
requests for re-prints came in until the magazine was literally swamped.
Puzzled by the overwhelming number of orders, Hubbard asked why people
were interested in that particular copy of the magazine. He was
surprised to learn that the demand was for the "filler"
article he had written about Rowan. Orders came in for 100,000 copies,
500,000 copies, 1,000,000 copies. Eventually, Hubbard was forced to
simply grant permission to those who wanted large numbers of re-prints,
because of his limited ability to publish in those quantities. Why are
so many people interested in an article about some unknown lieutenant by
the name of Andrew Summers Rowan? The reason is: everyone is looking for
individuals such as Rowan.
In 1895, the little
island nation of Cuba was struggling to be free from Spanish rule. The
Spanish soldiers who occupied the island oppressed and brutalized the
people. They desperately wanted to be free. The United States had a
strong interest in Cuba, not only because of its geographical proximity
to the United States, but also because of our financial investments
there. By 1897, the situation in Cuba had deteriorated to the point that
there was rioting in the streets of Havana between nationalists and
Spanish soldiers. President McKinley dispatched the battleship Maine as
a visible indicator of the United States' presence in Cuba. The American
battleship, sitting in Havana harbor, sent a clear signal to the Spanish
government of our country's resolve to protect our interests in Cuba.
Although a formidable presence, the Maine did not engage in any hostile
act against Spain.
On February 15, 1898,
however, an explosion rocked the Havana harbor sinking the U.S.
battleship. The American people were greatly alarmed over this open act
of aggression less than 100 miles off our country's coast. McKinley sent
an ultimatum to Spain to get out of Cuba. By April, the United States
was at war with Spain. Ultimately, the Spanish-American War proved to
liberate, not only the nation of Cuba, but the Philippine Islands, as
Just before declaring
war, President McKinley was meeting with Colonel Arthur Wagner, head of
the Bureau of Military Intelligence for the United States.
"Where", asked President McKinley, "can I find a man who
will carry a message to Garcia?" Co-operation between the rebel
forces in Cuba and the United States was essential to the success of the
campaign. It was vital to quickly communicate with the leader of the
rebels, General Calixto Garcia, a Cuban-born Creole. General Garcia was
somewhere in the mountains of Cuba leading the rebel troops in their
fight for independence. He was a hunted man by the Spanish army. No one
knew his exact whereabouts.
Colonel Wagner did not
hesitate in his answer to the President. "I have a man - a young
officer, Lieutenant Andrew Summers Rowan. If anybody can get a message
to Garcia, Rowan can."
An hour later, Col.
Wagner stood before Lieutenant Rowan. "Young man," said the
superior officer, "you must carry a message to General Garcia, who
will be found somewhere in the eastern part of Cuba...You must plan and
act for yourself. The task is yours and yours only." Col. Wagner
then shook Rowan's hand and repeated, "Get that message to
Garcia." Without asking one question, Rowan left to find Garcia.
Rowan delivered the
message to Garcia and the response got back to McKinley without Rowan
ever asking, "Where is he? What does he look like? Who are his
contacts? How do I get there?" He simply took the orders and did
what he was asked to do. Is there a Rowan among us? Is there somebody
who can get a message to Garcia without having to do an interrogation of
his senior officer first? Is there someone who can get the job done
without needing to have his employer hold his hand until the task is
completed? If not, the boss might as well do it himself.
Is there somebody that I
can just ask to accomplish a task, and the next time I see them I am
told, "I'm finished with that. What do you want me to do
next?" Where can I find someone like that? Where is he? Can I find
a Rowan? Is there someone who can get a message to Garcia?
They are out there.
There's just not enough of them. There are probably some Rowans reading
this right now. There will always be a few of those individuals who are
extraordinary. Extraordinary means above ordinary. Those who don't just
do what is expected of them; they surpass the expectations of others, in
their pursuit of excellence. Here is an excerpt from Elbert Hubbard's
article written over 100 years ago. It sounds as if it could have been
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 Ė "Carry a
message to Garcia!"...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?
Shanít I bring the book and let you look it up yourself? What do
you want to know for?... Now if you are wise you will not bother to
explain to your assistant that Correggio is indexed under the C's,
not under the K's, but you will smile sweetly and say, "Never
mind," and go look it up yourself.
People haven't changed in
the last 100 years, have they? Every time I give someone a task and they
start asking me a hundred questions, I immediately say to myself,
"This poor soul could not get a message to Garcia." Those who
can get a message to Garcia are rare. The majority is satisfied with the
status quo - with simply being average. I don't understand that
mentality. I can't comprehend the paradigm of being satisfied with
average. You are going to succeed because you decide to succeed. You are
going to succeed because you make the choice that you will not let life
choose for you. I will choose for myself. You can choose to live a life
of "barely making it through" or choose a life of excellence.
I am reminded of an
incident found in the Bible in the book of Mark. Jesus and his disciples
had been traveling and were hungry. Jesus walked over to a beautiful fig
tree, but it bore no figs. Jesus cursed the tree for not producing
fruit. On the next day, as they passed by, one of the disciples noted
that the fig tree had already withered and died.
Recently, while reading
this story, I noted something, which I had overlooked on all of my
previous readings. The scripture says that the tree was barren because
figs were not in season. My obvious question was, "Lord, werenít
you a bit harsh in your judgment of the fig tree? No trees had figs at
that time of the year."
Later that same night, at
2am, I sat straight up in bed as God spoke to me. He said, "If all
you do is what comes naturally, Iím not impressed."
God does not expect us to
do only what comes naturally. He expects us to do far beyond that which
is convenient and comfortable. For us to remain in the natural flow of
our existence is mediocrity. Average is the last thing God wants you and
me to be. Jesus used the fig tree as an example of what he wants of us.
He expected the tree to be productive and to bear fruit year round. Why
settle for mediocrity when you have the option to be better than most?
If you can produce one day out of the year, why not produce 365 days a
year? Why do we have to do only what everyone else is doing? Why can't
we be above average?
Nobody ever won an
Olympic event by doing what came naturally. The athlete who will take
home the gold must push beyond the limits of what has already been done.
I am tired of average. I feel as Hubbard felt when he penned these
We have recently been
hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the downtrodden denizen
of the sweatshop and the homeless wanderer searching for honest
employment and 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....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...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 takes the
missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking
intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing
anything 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
and needed badly, the man who can carry a message to Garcia.
Don't ever let it be said
that someone else expected more of you than you expected of yourself. If
anyone finds fault in a job which you have done that is less than
excellent, don't make excuses. Admit that it was not your best. Don't
stand up and try to defend yourself. Why settle for average, when
excellence is an option? I'm weary of people saying that it's not in
their nature to demand more of themselves. They may say, "My
personality is different than yours. Iím not as aggressive as you are.
Itís not my nature."
My answer to them is,
"Change." Really, itís just a decision away. Make a decision
A profound study on the
subject of excellence can be found in the Bible. The book of Matthew
tells of a man preparing for a trip to a far country who gathered his
servants and entrusted his goods to them. The scripture says that to
one, he gave five talents; to another he gave two; and to another, one.
To each, he gave according to their own ability. He who had received the
five talents went and traded them and made another 5 talents. Likewise,
he who had two went and gained two more also. But, he who had received
one talent went and buried his lord's money. After a long time, the lord
of those servants came and settled accounts with them. He who had
received five talents came and brought another five talents. His lord
said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You have been
faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things.
Enter now into the joy of your lord". He also, who had received two
talents came and brought two talents more. His lord said, "Well
done, thou good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few
things. I will make you ruler over many. Enter into the joy of your
lord". Then he who had received one talent came and said,
"Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not
sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. I was afraid and
went and hid your talent in the ground. Look there, have what is yours.
His lord answered and said unto him, "Wicked and lazy servant, you
knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not
scattered seed. So, you ought to have deposited money with the bankers
and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
Therefore, take the talent from him and give it to him that has ten
talents. To everyone who has, more will be given and he will have
abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be
taken away." (Matthew 25:14)
This servant thought he
would gain his master's approval by not losing the one talent that had
been given him. He thought he had accomplished something by not having
lost it or gambled it away. The master, however, saw it differently. The
master was not expecting his servants to do only what came naturally. He
wanted them to excel. He wanted them to go beyond what was average. Two
of them did. They doubled what he gave to them - a 100% increase. The
foolish servant's mentality was to "just get by".
I have met so many people
in my lifetime who have this attitude: "Let me do only what I
absolutely have to do to make it through. I am not going to do anything
What are you doing with
what you have been given? Are you only producing as much as everyone
else around you? Is your mindset like that of the foolish servant?
Werner Von Braun, head
engineer of NASA's Space Research and Development for the Apollo IV
Project said this concerning the Saturn V rocket, which was used to
propel the spacecraft for that mission, "The Saturn V has
5,600,000 parts. Even if we had a 99% reliability, there would still be
5,600 defective parts. Yet, the Apollo IV mission flew a textbook flight
with only two anomalies occurring, demonstrating a reliability of
99.999%." If an average automobile with 13,000 parts were to have
the same reliability, it would have its first defective part in about a
Why aren't our
automobiles built with the same precision as the Saturn V rocket?
Because NASA holds themselves to a higher set of standards than the
automobile industry. We need to be like NASA. God is looking for us to
pursue excellence - to set a higher standard for ourselves than everyone
I want you to ask
yourself, "Could I get a message to Garcia? If I were told that he
was hidden somewhere in the jungles of Cuba, could I get a message to
him? If I didn't know what he looked like, or where to find him, could I
do it?" If you are desperate to succeed, you will find a way. If
you purpose in your heart to succeed, you will!
We have become experts
with excuses - of why we can't do what we are supposed to do. Why can't
we just take a job and do it with excellence? People tell me all kinds
of excuses of why they can't do what theyíre supposed to do.
Be a Rowan. Do it! Just
make a decision. Make a choice. Something may slow me down. I may get
bogged down in my tracks. There may be times I find myself drowning in
quicksand, times I have to hang on to make it through, times when I feel
so downtrodden, I don't know if I can put one foot in front of the
other, but I will not quit. I will not give up. Quitting is not even an
option. I will accomplish the task that is set before me. I will pursue
excellence in every area of my life. Even though I may fall down, I will
get back up. I will dust myself off, and keep pressing on until I win.
God, give us people like
Rowan! People who don't need somebody to pet them every time something
goes wrong. People who don't need someone to baby them every time things
don't go the way they thought it should.
If I were asked to get a
letter to Garcia, I know I could. You may think that's arrogance on my
part, but it's not. It's confidence. I know that if you handed me a
letter and said, "Get this to Garcia." I could get it there. I
want you to get a message to Garcia, too. Be the best! If you have been
told all your life that you cannot achieve, donít listen to those
lies. It doesn't matter what negative things others may have told you.
Make a decision. Success
is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. If you will just put in the
effort, you can do it. Are you willing to make the decision to get the
job done with excellence? Are you prepared to carry the message to
Hanging on my office wall
is a plaque with this inscription:
Excellence is the result of caring more than others
think is wise;
risking more than others think is safe;
dreaming more than others think is practical
and expecting more than others think is possible.
Choose to live a life of excellence. Pursue the goal.
Dream the dream. You can do it. Get the message to Garcia!
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