Career Success: Tweet #141

Career Success Tweet #141Much of the career advice in this book focuses on taking personal responsibility for your life and career success.  I want to revisit that idea here.  Personal responsibility means using this material once you learn it.  I wrote Success Tweets and these career advice blog posts to provide you with useful information and knowledge on becoming a success in your career and life.  But, as the U.S. Steel pencils my Dad brought home from work used to say, “Knowing is not enough.”

When I was a kid, I was really fascinated and puzzled by these pencils.  “Knowing is not enough – what the hell does that mean?” I used to think.  I spent hours struggling with that idea.  I was too stubborn to ask a grown-up.

When I got to Penn State, I took Philosophy 101 my freshman year.  We had to read Johann von Goethe.  One day, as I was plowing through an assignment, I came across this quote: “Knowing is not enough, we must do.  Willing is not enough, we must apply.”

Boy, was I glad I took that course!  It solved one of the profound mysteries of my childhood:  “Knowing is not enough.”  You have to take what you learn and use it, or what you’ve learned isn’t very valuable.  That’s part of personal responsibility, and a huge part of creating the life and career success you want and deserve.

I’ve tried to present this material in such a manner that it provides you with some ideas of what to do to become a success in your life and career.  It’s up to you to think about what’s here and decide if and how you are going to use it.

A Message to Garcia is one of the best-known writings on the idea of personal responsibility.  It is an inspirational essay written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard that has been made into two movies, reprinted as a pamphlet and a book, translated into 37 languages, and was well-known in American popular and business culture until the middle of the twentieth century.  It was originally published as a filler without a title in the March 1899 issue of Philistine magazine.

A Message to Garcia celebrates the initiative of a soldier who was assigned and accomplished a daunting mission.  “He asked no questions, made no objections, requested no help, and accomplished the mission.”  The soldier was Andrew Summers Rowan, a class of 1881 West Point graduate.

The essay suggests that the reader should apply this attitude to his or her own life as an avenue to success.  Its wide popularity at the time was reflective of 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 United States Sailor and Marine in both World Wars and was often memorized by schoolchildren.

The essay is about an event in the Spanish-American War in 1898.  As the American army prepared to invade the Spanish colony of Cuba, they needed to contact the leader of the Cuban insurgents (the insurgents were on our side in that war), Calixto Iniguez Garcia.  Garcia had been fighting the Spanish for Cuban independence since 1868 and sought the help of the United States.

Here are some selected excerpts from A Message to Garcia:

“In all this Cuban business there is one man who stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.  When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.  Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba – no one knew where.  No mail or telegraph could reach him.  The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.

“What to do!

“Someone said to the President, ‘There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.’

“Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia…

“McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, ‘Where is he?’

“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 or 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…’

Knowing is not enough.  You have to do.  We all have to do.  Be like Rowan.  Treat all of your tasks as “a message to Garcia.”

I’ve enjoyed writing these posts.  It was fun to look back on my career and to distill the nuggets that have become my personal rules for success into a series of tweets.  It was even more fun to write this series of blog posts delving deeper into each tweet.

But you should remember that these tweets are ideas that I have found helpful in my personal journey to professional success.  One size does not fit all.  Change, adapt, discard ideas that don’t work for you.  Add new ideas that you find helpful, or that you’ve learned in other places.

I am using Success Tweet and the Success Tweets blog to start a community of success seekers – one in which we freely exchange ideas, helping one another to learn, grow and succeed.  I will be launching a combination membership site and group coaching site very soon.  I hope to make it into a lively community.  It takes more than one person to create a community though, that’s why I hope you will join and actively participate on the blog.

While I will encourage open discussion of ideas on the coaching calls, you can email me at if you have any career advice questions you would like me to answer in private.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Follow the career advice in Tweet 141 in Success Tweets.  “Knowing is not enough.  Successful people will read the advice in these tweets.  And they will act on it.   Be a successful person.”  I really want you to succeed, and I want to help you succeed in any way I can.  Please keep reading my daily blog posts at  Comment when you have something to add.  Ask questions for clarification.  I wish you the very best in creating the life and career success you want and deserve.

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