James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy who endure.
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
"They wish the centurions not so much to be venturesome and dare-devil as to be natural leaders, of a steady and sedate spirit. They do not desire them so much to be men who will initiate attacks and open the battle, but men who will hold their ground when worsted and hard-pressed and be ready to die at their posts."
– Polybius: The Histories
Wenig hervortreten, viel leisten, mehr sein als scheinen.
Avoid the spotlight, work hard, and be more than you seem.
— Alfred Graf von Schlieffen
A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”
— Victor Frankl – Man’s Search For Meaning, 1946
Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.
But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants “just a few minutes of your time, please — this won’t take long.” Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!
So learn to say No — and to be rude about it when necessary.
Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.
(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.)
— Robert A. Heinlein – Time Enough for Love, 1973
Marshal Soult said, however, that “that which is called an inspiration is simply a calculation rapidly made and another great authority has said that “inspiration was frequently but a timely recollection,” which is but a paraphrase of the saying that the “soul of wit is apt quotation.” Napoleon has himself revealed to us what is to be thought of his innate genius, when, in a conversation with Senator Roederer, the 6th of March; he said:
As for myself, I am always at work, I meditate a great deal. If I seem always prepared to reply to all, to meet all, it is that before undertaking anything, I have meditated’ a long time, I have foreseen what might occur. It is not a genius which reveals to me Suddenly, in secret, what I am to say or do in an emergency by the rest of people unexpected–it is my reflection, it is my meditation. I am constantly at work, at meals, at the theater; at night I get up to work.
The distinguished French military writer, from whom the above is quoted, ” General Pierron, in an attempt to ferret out the secret of Napoleon’s wonderful military capacity, has discovered that the main points of his most brilliant campaign, the campaign in Italy of 796, were taken from the Memoires of the Marshal de Maillebois, who had commanded in that theater fifty years before (1746), ,and from a paper of General de Bourcet, in which there is a review of operations in Italy in 1733.
It is not generally known that before assuming command of the Army of Italy, Napoleon had previously served in the same army its chief of artillery, and from there was transferred to the general staff in Paris, where he prepared a plan of campaign for that army, at which time he saw the books referred to. In a conversation on this subject the late Major Churchill of the army related the two following stories in illustration:
An officer who had served on the staff of General Sherman in the March to the Sea, was telling Major Churchill of the General’s wonderful, intuitive grasp of terrain, and gave as an example how one day the General was laying out the order of march, and said such a column will ford the Chattahoochee at such a point.”-“General, there isn’t any ford shown on the map; hadn’t we better send a reconnoitering party to find out?”-” Oh, no; I’m sure they will be able to find a ford there somewhere,” and sure enough they did!Then the Major laughed; for he remembered that when he was a boy accompanying his father, Colonel Churchill, who was conducting the survey of that section, Lieutenant Wm. Tecumseh Sherman, of the third artillery, reported for duty, and that Lieutenant Sherman and he had crossed that ford together many a time!
The other story was that a man was insisting on the intuitive, inborn instinct of sign reading possessed by the Indians. “Oh, said his companion, “the white man could do the same under proper training.”-“Never, never in the world!”Just then the rattle was heard of an ice cart passing in the street. “What’s that? -That’s an ice cart.”-“How did you know that? An Indian would have thought that wonderful.”
— The Strategic Naval War Game or Chart Maneuver by Capt W. McCarty Little, USN, p1215
The only meaningful definition of a “generalist” is a specialist who can relate his own small area to the universe of knowledge. Maybe a few people have knowledge in more than a few small areas. But that does not make them generalists; it makes them specialists in several areas. And one can be just as bigoted in three areas as in one. The man, however, who takes responsibility for his contribution will relate his narrow area to a genuine whole. He may never himself be able to integrate a number of knowledge areas into one. But he soon realizes that he has to learn enough of the needs, the directions, the limitations, and the perceptions of others to enable them to use his own work. Even if this does not make him appreciate the richness and the excitement of diversity, it will give him immunity against the arrogance of the learned—that degenerative disease which destroys knowledge and deprives it of beauty and effectiveness.