“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
- Thomas A. Edison
It’s not a good thing when nations chill-out at the wrong times. In 1939, Hitler had invaded Poland and was at technically at war with Britain and France. But the French and British were not taking the situation seriously. Author William Manchester recalled this in his biographies of Churchill. He said Churchill despaired at the slow pace in which munitions factories were being ramped up in both countries, and was dismayed at how the quality of the French army was being “allowed to deteriorate during the winter”:
“There were many tasks that needed doing: training demanded continuous attention; defenses were far from satisfactory or complete — even the Maginot Line lacked many supplementary field works; physical fitness demands exercise. Yet visitors to the French front were often struck by the prevailing atmosphere of calm aloofness, by the seemingly poor quality of the work in hand, by the lack of visible activity of any kind.”
The British military were no better. The citizenry as a whole coasted along in what Churchill called a “twilight mood.” The Germans were using the lull in action to gear up for full-on war, the public continued to live in a state of unreality, their minds turned to the same distractions and trivialities that had diverted their attention in peace:
“The British, possessing on the whole a better record on European battlefields, ought to have been more realistic. They weren’t. Instead, they were complacent. The Isle looked fine; ergo, the Isle was fine. In the autumn, the Times had proclaimed Britain’s ‘grim determination’ to see it all through, but nine months after the outbreak, English life had returned to normal. Idle men dozed on Hyde Park ‘deck chairs’; the sheep lazed away the days in London’s park enclosures, and admiring crowds gathered by the nearby duck ponds…”
“Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not once but many times by the power of the will. Courage is will power…in Gaelic hope and courage are the same word.”
CHARLES WILSON, The Anatomy of Courage
“A lost battle is a battle that one believes lost.” Churchill
What made Churchill tick? The man in the position to know was Lord Moran Churchill's quiet personal physician, who traveled with the Prime Minister during the war, and stayed closely by his side during every stressful meeting, deliberation and painful decision. Lord Moran's biographies of Churchill reveal the consistency, determination of the man who fought optimistically when many of his countrymen were faint of heart. The quote is from The Anatomy of Courage by Lord Moran.
Theodore Roosevelt made a habit of grabbing opportunity when it came within reach. As a skinny kid, he met a boxing coach and asked to be taught how to defend himself. He came across books and devoured them. He inherited some money when his father died suddenly and used it to pay for law school. He attended political meetings. He wanted to learn about war, so he researched and wrote a book about it. When he was asked to lead the Republican Party in his state, he accepted the opportunity. Many other invitations followed. When president, this poem by John James Ingalls hung on the wall in his executive office: It’s titled “Opportunity.”
Master of human destinies am I
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late
I knock unbidden once at every gate;
If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate.
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death: But those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore--
I answer not, and I return no more.
"Though all under heaven be at peace, if the art of war be forgotten there is peril." - Chinese proverb
Jack Abernathy did it the first time when he was fifteen. The year was 1891. At that time Jack was a six-year veteran cowpuncher on a West Texas ranch which was plagued by wolves. One day his favorite greyhounds were chasing a wolf and Jack was trying to keep up on horseback. When the desperate wolf spun around to attack the dogs, Jack instinctively moved to protect his dogs. He leapt from the horse and attacked the wolf with the only thing he had: his fists. He struck a blow straight at the wolf’s nose just as the wolf viciously lunged. Jack’s fist lodged in the wolf’s throat, and the fight was suddenly stalemated. The furious wolf was still very much alive, but he could not bite or fight. Jack held his dominant position until another cowboy rode up and helped bind the wolf with rope. Jack then killed the wolf, hauled it home and weighed it. Jack’s first dead wolf weighed 130 pounds. Jack weighed 127. He went on to catch over 1,000 wolves this way, keeping some alive for sale to Zoos, parks or experimental breeders. When President Roosevelt heard about the colorful Abernathy, he took a vacation to Oklahoma Territory to ride with Jack and watch him jump on a wolf from a running horse, thrust his hand into the throat, and then wire the muzzle. Abernathy did this on the President’s first afternoon ride. Jack Abernathy, the piano-playing, singing, gun-toting cowboy busted broncs, settled wildernesses, and drilled oil gushers. Before he retired he wore the badges of under-sheriff, posse member, deputy marshal, U.S. marshal, and Secret Service agent. But best of all, he had two awesome sons you’ll meet in another post.
“Think what evil creeps liberals would be if their plans to enfeeble the individual, exhaust the economy, impede the rule of law, and cripple national defense were guided by a coherent ideology instead of smug ignorance.” P. J. O'Rourke
Are you using your free time to improve yourself? Are you efficient with that time? If you want to train smarter, here’s some wisdom from scientist Anders Ericsson, author of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. He believes it does not take 10,000 hours to develop a special skill. But it does take hard work. And you can make the most of that work by practicing smart, deliberately and purposefully. Isolate one area that needs improvement and go to work. Five recommended steps:
1. Accept where you’re at with an honest assessment.
2. Challenge yourself with deliberate practice on one particular point of improvement.
3. Get a coach who can help you see what you’re doing both right and wrong. “Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it,” Ericsson says.
4. Become a teacher. Analyze others and help them systematically improve. “The best way,” says Ericsson, “to get past any barrier is to come at it from a different direction.”
5. Get out there and start.
Look closely at the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Without honor between men, no civilization can hold together. George III provoked this war by treacherously violating his own word of honor, making it a worthless thing. By signing this Declaration, America’s Founders were renewing the proper definition of honor, and modeling it with their lives. They pledged their word of honor to fight together for independence in a way every other signer could rely on. Furthermore, they understood oath-breaking, dishonesty, breach of contract and lying to be sins against the God Who defines honor, and Who defines the terms of all human government. British politicians had been replacing these definitions with cheap human imitations of honor; and with fake political grandeur and rule by tyranny. George III placed “his will alone” above all law and order in the American colonies. The Founders wanted to restore God’s sovereign authority to the affairs of life and government so they could live in true freedom. After the Founders finished signing their names, Sam Adams stood and solemnly summarized what they had just done. "We have this day,” he said, “restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come."