A Message to Garcia - RS Book Notes assignment #1

Elbert Hubbard’s short book, A Message to Garcia, written over a century ago, was a very quick and easy read. More than anything else it is a treatise about the different types of workers there are in society, and the spirit of dedication a worker should bring to his job, whatever that job might be.

The first few sentences of the book’s Apologia section, titled Horse Sense, set the tone of the work.

If you work for a man, in Heaven’s name work for him. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, and stand by him, and stand by the institution he represents. […]

Defining initiative on the job as “doing the right thing without being told,” the author describes different classes of workers on a scale ranging from those who display initiative properly at the one end, to those who simply refuse to do so at the other end.

Retired now, with my working life behind me, I can look back at the different jobs I held with different companies, large and small, and remember my coworkers. I’m happy to say that most of the folks, though not all, with whom I shared work environments were clearly at the upper end, the self-motivated, responsible end of Hubbard’s scale.

Simple advice I was given when I was a boy about how to conduct myself on the job always stayed with me and always served me well. It was:

  • 1.) to always arrive at work early, ten or fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time, and begin preparing for the day ahead,
  • 2.) when working, try to be cheerful and efficient, always doing my best at whatever task I was assigned, and
  • 3.) remain at the workplace for ten or fifteen minutes after finishing, to clean up after myself more thoroughly than may be required, and to be available for critique, suggestions, or comments that my employer may want to share.