A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard – Book Review

Title and Author: A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard- Book Review

Synopsis of Content:

In February 1899 publisher, author and “New Thought” philosopher Elbert Hubbard wrote a very short little story about an event in the Spanish American War. That short story, which when first published in Hubbard’s magazine, Philistine, did not even have a title.

The short inspirational story is about Lt. Andrew Summers Rowan. He was called upon by President McKinley to deliver a special message to General Garcia. Garcia was a key player in the Cuban insurrection forces that the United States allied with during the war. As the war began it was critical for the President to get a message to Garcia to explore an alliance with him in the conflict. Garcia was hold up in the remote jungle in Cuba. No one had direct access to him. There was no way to get mail to him or send a telegraph. No one in the US government actually knew where he was located, or whether he moved regularly.

The President gave Rowan a message in a waterproof bag and directed him to deliver it to Garcia. Rowan asked no questions and made no objections. He left immediately on his mission. Four days later he landed by night on the Cuban coast. He disappeared into the jungle on foot with no assistance, no more information and no way to communicate with the outside world. Three weeks later he came out of the jungle on the other side of the island having delivered the message as ordered.

Hubbard uses this remarkable story to demonstrate the very high value of a man who takes on an assignment, asks no questions, asks for no help, makes no argument that he is not the person for the job, and just does it. He finds Garcia on his own, delivers the message and returns to report success. No objections and no excuses are made.

Such resourcefulness and determination is rare in people. In the essay he goes on to give other examples in everyday business where people given a simpler task make excuses or riddle their boss with questions or expect someone else to do the job for them. He contrasts here the tremendous accomplishment of Rowan with the weak way so many people react when sent on a mission, be it small or large. He discusses how valuable a man like Rowan is – a man (and today it would of course include a woman) who when given a task gets down to it right away and completes it. Such a person is unique and invaluable. Such a person rarely finds himself unemployed. People like this are in high demand everywhere and at every time.

Within a short time publishers were bombarding Hubbard for copies of the story. The NY Central Railroad ordered a hundred thousand copies. Eventually they published over three and a half million copies. The director of the Russian railway liked the story so much he had it translated into Russian and given to every employee of the railroad.

The story traveled from Russia to Germany, then to France, Spain, Turkey, Hindustan and China – in all these places it was published and sold by the thousands.

During the Russo-Japanese war the Russian government provided a copy to every Russian soldier. When the Japanese found it they translated into Japanese and gave it to every Japanese soldier. Ultimately over 40 million copies of this little story were printed and distributed.

During the first quarter of the 20th century this little story became one of the most inspirational stories published in the world. It was written in one hour and takes less than a half hour to read. Yet it provides a profound instruction on how to become an invaluable employee and an inspiration to anyone who seeks to achieve great things.

Usefulness:

Just as it did in 1899 A Message to Garcia is both a tremendous instructional manual on how one can become an invaluable servant of others and an inspirational piece. Everyone can benefit from spending a few minutes to read it.

Readability/Writing Quality:

The story is short and well written.

Notes on Author:

Elbert Hubbard was born in Illinois and with only a grade school education he became a successful self-made man. He was a voracious reader who continually improved his own skills and knowledge. He created the Roycroft Shop, a publishing house. He wrote 182 biographies of successful people. He published two magazines, The Philistine and The Fra. Hubbard and his wife died on the way to England in 1915 while sailing on the Lusitania which was sunk by a German torpedo.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

1. When given a task to perform do not object, delay or seek help. Rather, demonstrate how reliable you are by performing the task competently and speedily so that you will be seen as a reliable person.

2. Do not make excuses. Get the job done and done right. It will pay you back a hundred fold.

3. No one is highly rewarded for mediocre or “satisfactory” work. We are rewarded for doing more than we are asked to do, doing it more competently than one might expect and doing it fully. If you want to succeed in business and in life you must stand out as someone who will do more than the average person.

Publication Information:

A Message to Garcia is in the public domain. The pamphlet version I read is published by Executive Books in 2002.


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