If the train is headed over the cliff, I expect one of the porters to speak up!
If the ship is sinking, I expect the purser to tell someone.
Sometimes a "team player" needs to dissent in order to bring a better idea to the table.
And sometimes a person is being mistreated.
I am still learning from General George Washington, a book given to me by the folks at Washington's Mount Vernon. In my notes, I seek to sort out the differences between speaking up and complaining.
In 1754, while only in his early 20s, George Washington was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. According to sources, he didn't waste any time before complaining about the pay - something he would have to answer for his own soldiers, later in life. Still, we must recognize the immaturity of this young man in his fledgling years of military leadership; he could not expect to get rich quick on his chosen path.
Still, George excelled in his patriotism and attempt to do the best job possible - in spite of the lack of pay. Though he whined about the mistreatment, he did not allow that to slow or stop him. There is a lesson in that, but we will leave that for another time.
After making some difficult choices for his men and facing the French in the Ohio Valley, Lieutenant Colonel George Washington ended up leading an attack that devastated him. Purely and simply, he made a bad call, and it cost him dearly. The massacre of his troops in the muddle valley is one for the history books, one in which a global war was stirred - the French and Indian War. Though the war was probably inevitable, it was George Washington who made the decision for the initial attack.
When it was all said and done, George tucked his tail and returned in shame. After receiving some criticism and being reassured that he had done all he could in the situation, that he had been faced with rocks and hard places all over the place, George resigned his commission. In essence, he took his ball and left. When the going got tough, George got going...home. He couldn't stand the little bit of heat he received, so he got out of the fire.
At this point, some might opine that George was harsher on himself than his critics were. It is distinctly possible that he was pouting with depression, stomping the mud off his boots and removing himself from the situation. In Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical, the lyrics sang by the character of George Washington are copied at here (right).
Lessons abound in this part of George Washington's legacy:
I was younger than you are now
- Learn from your mistakes; don't wallow in them.
- Admit your mistakes; be honest with yourself and others.
- Recognize that others make mistakes, too; hold them accountable, but don't beat them up about it.
- Whining is unattractive and ruins people's impressions of you.
- Running away from your problems is not the same as regrouping.
- Genuine analysis of your performance should not lead you to shame, but should spur you on to do better next time.
- History has its eyes on you.