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It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, to concentrate their energies: do the thing—“carry a message to Garcia.” General Garcia is dead now, but there are other “Garcias.” No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed has not been appalled by the inability or unwillingness of workers to concentrate on a task and do it. Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowzy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work, and his long, patient striving with “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned.
He wrote a number of books, including a 14-volume series, Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great. How many years of labor, how many millions of lines of text must he have sweated over in his life, either as author, editor, or publisher?
And yet, the "trifle" inspired by his son, the 1,500 words he knocked out in an hour as untitled filler for his magazine, was reprinted millions of times in dozens of languages, became part of the American lexicon, and was made into two movies.
Hubbard was talented and prolific--an author, publisher, artist, and philosopher.
He founded the Roycroft Artisan Community in New York and was a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.
Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba—no one knew where. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. Someone said to the President, “There’s 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.
How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot and delivered his letter to Garcia—are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. After you have answered his questions and explained how to find the information and why you want it, the clerk will no doubt go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find “Garcia”—and then come back and tell you there’s no such man.And Elbert Hubbard, anxious to report on WWI from Europe, booked passage aboard the Lusitania and drowned when it was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915.Here's the other thing that strikes me about "A Message to Garcia," the real lesson I take away from reading it.He wrote down his thoughts in an hour and put them in a leftover spot in his newspaper.Soon orders came for more copies, and eventually 40 million reprints of that article were distributed around the world.Then, George Henry Daniels (1842-1908) of the New York Central Railroad sent a telegram asking for one hundred thousand of the “Rowan article in pamphlet form—Empire State Express advertisement on the back.” Unable to meet such demand, Hubbard gave Daniels permission to reprint the article.Daniels, a marketing genius in his own right, turned the essay into a booklet and printed half a million.The article, now officially “A Message To Garcia,” was reprinted in over two hundred magazines and translated into two dozen languages.By 1914, Hubbard could brag that “A Message to Garcia” had been printed forty million times, “a larger circulation than any other literary venture has ever attained during the lifetime of the author, in all history.” So pervasive was “A Message to Garcia” that it became part of American slang. turned the essay into a silent movie in 1916, and Twentieth Century Fox a talking movie in 1936. Steel, the first billion-dollar company in the nation.The point that I wish to make is this: Mc Kinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at? This incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift—these are the things that drive employers to despair.” There is a man whose form should be cast in bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “downtrodden denizens of the sweat-shop” and the “homeless wanderers in searching for honest employment” and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.