He had to learn things he did not know, do things he did not do well, and learn not to attempt things he could not do at all… Richard Brookhiser, George Washington on Leadership
Richard Brookhiser is an American writer, editor and historian who has written a variety of books about those who attended the founding of our republic. Among other things, he is currently an editor at National Review for whom he’s been writing since he was 15-years-old.
While this line is about George Washington, a man who will be talked about as long as us humans are around to talk, it could apply to each one of us. From running a plantation to running a new army to fighting a war against the world’s greatest fighting force to running a new country, Washington spent no small amount of time in jobs that were under construction and adapting to what nature and circumstance produced for him. Washington spent a lot of time winging it, seeing what worked and what didn’t and learning from both.
We do, too. And every day the choice whether to adapt and wing it the best we can or to spend our life marking time and spinning our wheels belongs to us. It’s a choice we must make everyday, too. Satisfying lives aren’t spent adapting some days and not others. As we say fairly regularly here, there are a thousand things every day to distract us from the life were meant to live and it is up to us to set those aside.
Though Washington will live down the ages, as today’s Thought shows he is not a whole lot different than us.
He had to learn things he did not know…
Those who get the most out of their lives are doing this continuously. We must have the wisdom to know what we do not know, and then, if it is something we need or want to know, we must have the courage and patience to go and learn it. It is said that ignorance is bliss, but this is false. Ignorance is nothing more than a barrier standing between us and where we are meant to go with our life. We must always take the opportunity to learn something new.
…and learn not to attempt things he could not do at all…
In our youth, fueled by the belief that anything is possible, we might well have spent no small amount of time banging our heads against the wall in futile endeavors. Experience, if we let it, will show us what we should not be wasting our time on. liberating us from things that do not produce a dividend.
One of life’s great prizes is knowing ourselves and as the years pass we should be knowing ourselves better and better. Experience will show us what we don’t and should know, and what should not bother doing anymore. George Washington was attentive to these lessons, and we should be, too.
The Thought for the Day runs regularly. All quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.