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THE world bestows its big prizes, both in money and honors, for but one thing, and that is Initiative. ¶ What is Initiative? I'll tell you: It is doing the right thing without being told. ¶ But next to doing the thing without being told is to do it when you are told once. That is to say, carry the Message to Garcia: those who can carry a message get high honors, but their pay is not always in proportion. ¶ Next there are those who never do a thing until they are told twice: such get no honors and small pay. ¶ Next, there are those who do the right thing only when Necessity kicks them from behind. and these get indifference instead of honors. and a pittance for pay. This kind spends most of its time polishing a bench with a hard luck story. ¶ Then, still lower down in the scale than this, we have the fellow who will not do the right thing even when some one goes along to show him how and stays to see that he does it: he is always out of a job, and receives the contempt that he deserves, unless he happens to have a rich Pa, in which case Destiny patiently awaits around the corner with a stuffed club. ¶ To which class do you belong? -Elbert Hubbard
About A Message to Garcia
This literary trifle, A Message to Garcia, was written one evening after supper, in a single hour. It was on the Twenty-second of February, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-nine, Washington's Birthday, and we were just going to press with the March Philistine. The thing leaped hot from my heart, written after a trying day, when I had been endeavoring to train same rather delinquent villagers to abjure the comatose state and get radioactive.
The immediate suggestion, though, came from a little argument over the teacups, when my boy Bert suggested that Rowan was the real hero of the Cuban War. Rowan had gone alone and done the thing-carried the message to Garcia.
It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right, the hero is the man who does his work-who carries the message to Garcia.
I got up from the table, and wrote . I thought so little of it that we ran it in the Magazine without heading. The edition went out, and soon orders began to come for extra copies of the March Philistine, a dozen, fifty, a hundred; and when the American News Company ordered a thousand, I asked one of my helpers which article it was that had stirred up the cosmic dust. "It's the stuff about Garcia," he said.
The next day a telegram came from George H. Daniels, of the New York Central Railroad, thus "Give price on one hundred thousand Rowan article in pamphlet form--Empire State Express advertisement on back--also how soon can ship."
I replied giving price, and stated we could supply the pamphlet in two years. Our facilities were small and a hundred thousand booklets looked like an awful undertaking.
The result was that I gave Mr. Daniels permission to reprint the article in his own way. He issued it in booklet form in editions of half a million. Two or three of these half-million lots were sent out by Mr. Daniels, and in addition the article was reprinted in over two hundred magazines and newspapers. It has been translated into all written languages.
At the time Mr. Daniels was distributing the Message to Garcia, Prince Hilakoff, Director of Russian Railways, was in this country. He was the guest of the New York Central, and made a tour of the country under the personal direction of Mr. Daniels. The Prince saw the little book and was interested in it, more because Mr. Daniels was putting it out in such big numbers, probably, than otherwise.
In any event, when he got home he had the matter translated into Russian, and a copy of the booklet given to every railroad employee in Russia.
Other countries then took it up, and from Russia it passed into Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Hindustan and China. During the war between Russia and Japan, every Russian soldier who went to the front was given a copy of the Message to Garcia.
The Japanese, finding the booklets in possession of the Russian prisoners, concluded that it must be a good thing and accordingly translated it into Japanese.
And on an order of the Mikado, a copy was given to every man in the employ of the Japanese Government, soldier or civilian.
Over forty million copies of A Message to Garcia have been printed. This is said to be a larger circulation than any other literary venture has ever attained during the lifetime of the author, in all history-thanks to a series of lucky accidents.
All alums in business should be familiar with Elbert Hubbard's Business Credo to help them keep their perspective!
Elbert Hubbard's Business Credo
For more on Elbert Hubbard, see the Elbert Hubbard Homepage as well as the homepage of the Roycrofters (modern day disciples of Elbert Hubbard).