I recently read a letter that General George S. Patton wrote to his son, who was then at West Point. It was written on June 6, 1944 – D-Day. It contains some insight into things that are applicable to all of us, regardless of what kind of battles we fight.
You can read it and get some background here. In the interest of brevity, I’ll just mention what ideas I took away from it.
1. In order to be successful, you have to be “wired” for what you do. Even though Patton had been through battles in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and the fiercest fighting in France was ahead, he was ready to go. Others who did not relish battle as much probably couldn’t have been as successful.
Although he acknowledges fear, it doesn’t stop him from moving forward. The phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway” could have originated here.
2. He knew himself, and that he wasn’t going to win any popularity contests. You can’t really elaborate on his statement “people who are not themselves are nobody”.
3. There really is no substitute for unflappable self-confidence. This is probably exaggerated in Patton’s case, but is probably what is necessary if you are ordering soldiers into combat based on your decisions and judgement. To be unsure of yourself in such a situation would not be something most people could live with.
But this self-confidence has to be based on objective reality, not some inflated self-helpy “esteem” issues. Patton had won battles before, and had no doubt his “military reactions” were correct and would continue to enable him to win in the future. Life pays out on results, not intentions.
It’s an interesting glimpse into a mindset that was of a very different time and place. Today’s generals talk of “nation-building” and diplomatic goals. We seem to think war can be reduced to numerical analyses and run in the most efficient method possible, like running a production line. And we see where that has gotten us.
But each of us fights their own battles – economic, spiritual, or emotional. And I think Patton’s advice could go a long way toward helping us win those.
Don’t be afraid to fight for what YOU want, and know you can win.