Monday, November 12, 2012

A Lesson from Hick Abbott

As you know, The Man Sphere is all about improvement. Over the weekend, we in Canada celebrated the observance of Remembrance Day (Veterans' Day in the US), which of course commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I in 1918. It's a time to give pause and reflect on the sacrifices of veterans from the Great Wars, and of those who continue to serve, in the advancement of the cause of peace.

But it's more than that. To the man looking to be all that he can be (if it's not too cliche to quote the US Army), it's a time to pause and think about the sacrifices we're able to make in our own lives. Can we, in fact, be more than we are? Can we create a greater contribution in the lives of others? Is self-improvement a selfish act?

This passage floated across my Facebook feed this weekend. It's from a general speaking at the funeral of Edward Lyman "Hick" Abbott (read more HERE). It summarizes what was then a good assessment of a stout Canadian, and what is, I think, the standard to which many of us aspire in life and business:

"He was the type of Canadian, and the type of Britisher, that the Germans cannot understand; the type that fights with a silent fury and yet that does not hate; too much of a sportsman to fight unfairly, but more dangerous in attack than their finest products of hate-inspiration because of utter recklessness combined with a deadly skill and total inability to recognize defeat.”

Give that a good read once again. Of course this is a piece out of history, where these ethnic and country lines were drawn much more sharply than they are in today's pluralistic world. But the attitude described is one worthy of note. He fights with a silent fury, but doesn't do so out of hate. He does so out of motivation to succeed; out of a sense of honour and defense; out of a sense of obligation to protect that which is most valued in his life, and the lives of those he loves.

See the next part? Too much of a sportsman to fight unfairly, but dangerous because of utter recklessness combined with deadly skill. Carry this into other spheres of endeavour, and our own desire to deal fairly with others can be tempered with a sound acumen, be that in business or personal life. Acumen, I think, is that combination of willingness to take risk (utter recklessness) and solid training and awareness of the field (deadly skill); in other words, being trained, motivated, and willing to risk the adventure for the sake of the goal.

The last point, though, is one I find most poignant: "total inability to recognize defeat." We talk a lot about perseverence through adversity, and when it comes to setting goals for our own improvement this process is vastly enhanced by the knowledge; not the mere estimation or assumption; that things will get tough. Not recognizing defeat doesn't mean being blind to the reality of failure. It means understanding that failure is not an end; that there is more life and another process beyond that. That's perseverence.

Fury without hate. Fair but dangerous. Reckless but with deadly skill. Unable to recognize defeat.

Sounds like the kind of guy I'd like to be.


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