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How Deep Is The Water? A Moment With Bill Reflection
A Lesson from the Civil War
On May 24, 1862, General Barnard and the 5th U.S. Calvary were pursuing Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and his men up the Peninsula. They reached the Chickahominy River so they stopped, and the officers sat down for a meeting to discuss a potential crossing point on that river. At one point during the meeting General Barnard could be heard muttering, “I wish I knew how deep that river is.”
Upon hearing those words, Captain George Armstrong Custer dashed forward into the river on his horse. He reached the middle of the river where the water was only up to the knees of his horse, turned to the astonished officers back on the bank, and said, “That’s how deep it is, Mr. General.”
I read about that incident many years ago and I still smile today when I think of it.
So What’s the Point?
I will state this as clearly as I possibly can: some people are doers and some people are content to sit on the bank and watch the action.
I was notorious at the schools I taught at for my intolerance of staff meetings. I hated them. Instead of teaching for an entire day, classes were suspended at noon and then teachers would gather their lunches and sit for three hours discussing and debating possible actions to take in the future. Invariably no consensus could be found and predictably, then, no action was taken, and it drove me crazy.
I call it paralysis by analysis.
After the meetings I would go to the principal and ask him what he needed done, that I was more than willing to take on a new task and complete it, and he would always explain that we really shouldn’t do something until we were all in agreement. “Well hell,” I told him. “Then we’ll never get a damn thing done.”
Was I a bit impetuous? Most definitely! Was I a tad insensitive to the opinions of others? You bet your bippy I was!
And that is the curse of the doers of this world. While others want to analyze, debate, discuss risks and a myriad of possible outcomes, the doers just want to do. They want results. They want to mark off another item on their to do lists and move to the next.
Where Does This Paralysis Come From?
It’s an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it? If you think back you will remember seeing it during your
childhood. Some kids are just naturally curious and willing to risk it all to achieve something, while others will sit on the sidelines of life saying, “You can’t do that because this might happen,” or “You shouldn’t take risks like that,” or “No way am I doing that; I might get hurt trying.”
All the while life is passing them by.
As I write this I am sixty-five years old. If I live an average life span I have about thirteen years remaining; maybe a little more; maybe a little less. Thirteen years will be gone in the blink of an eye, and if you think for one moment I’m going to waste any of those thirteen years then you are sadly mistaken.
Risks? So what! There are risks just getting out of bed and driving somewhere in your car. What’s the worst thing that can happen to me if I take on a new undertaking? I will fail. Oh gee, how will I ever recover from failure? Well, the same way I have always recovered: I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward. That’s what we humans do. We were not born to cower in the corner hoping against hope that bad fortune will not visit us. We were born to run headfirst into walls. We were born to squeeze every ounce of life that we can from this vessel we are traveling on.
I say God bless the doers!
Why You Should Be a Doer
When I was fourteen years old I was pitching in a Little League game one fine summer afternoon. For those of you not knowledgeable about such things, a normal game is seven innings long at that level. I had pitched through eight innings in a 0-0 tie and I was getting tired. The temperature was in the eighties that day, and I had never pitched longer than seven innings, and my arm felt like a twenty pound wet noodle when I finished the eighth inning and came to the dugout.
The coach came up to me and asked me how much I had left in my tank. I told him I felt fine and I wanted to pitch the 9th. He said okay and sent me back out there. The first batter in the 9th inning hit a homerun off of me and my team lost 1-0.
My dad was there that day, and as we were driving home I was naturally depressed over costing our team a loss, and I told my dad how I had screwed it up for our team. He just looked at me and told me to knock that kind of talk off. “Did you try your hardest, Bill?” he asked me. I told him I had, but that I knew I was tired before that 9th inning. He simply told me that we will never know our limitations…we will never know what we are capable of…if we do not push ourselves beyond our known limits. And he said one other thing: he told me he was proud of me.
Fifty-one years later I still remember his words. I will never know what I am capable of if I’m not willing to push the envelope and find out.
This World Desperately Need Doers
You don’t need me to tell you that. We’ve got trouble in River City my friends, and we need people who are willing to step up and get things done.
Would you like to know what really chafes my butt? I’ll spend ten minutes on Facebook and I’m assaulted by people who want to rant about the Democrats, rant about the Republicans, rant about poor parenting and rant about crappy schools. In the time they took to do all that ranting not once did they propose a solution that involved them doing anything.
Talk is cheap. Action requires effort. As much as I believe in Freedom of Speech and the Constitution, I’ve got to tell you that to those who just want to complain I have only one message: Shut up and be a part of the solution.
Meaningful change in this country will only happen at the local level. We can no longer sit back and wait for our national lawmakers to affect change for the common good. We must make it happen and it must happen in the towns in which we live.
If you are tired of ineffectual government then change it. If you are tired of inaction then be a catalyst for action. We don’t need any more critics. We’ve got more than enough of them. What we need are doers who are willing to risk it all so that something will be done.
Is there a risk of failure? Most definitely! So what? We all fail, and then we get up, and we move forward, and we try again.
How deep is the river? There’s only one way to find out. Saddle up, show up, ride out into it, and find out.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)