message to garcia

the work ethic that never was (kids these days)

Kids these days… No one gives an honest day’s work anymore… Not like when I was coming up in the organization… What ever happened to people’s work ethic…

You’ve heard these words before. Maybe even said them. I suspect each generation will say these words about the next generation until the sun flares out and the earth dies several billion years from now.

I was recently re-reading Elbert Hubbard’s “A Message to Garcia” and it made me consider the possibility that the work ethic isn’t dead, that it isn’t dying. Perhaps it never really was alive.

Hubbard’s short pamphlet was originally written as rather inspired filler for a magazine and created such demand that it went on sell forty million copies in 37 languages. Clearly, his message struck a chord. It’s a great short read that’s less than three pages long. I came across it here, but you can find it all over the internet.

In it, the author laments how few people are willing to go above and beyond or even do the very basics of their job reliably and without coercion. And how surprising it is when someone does a job and does it well on their own initiative. Speaking of the man who delivered a message to General Garcia without hesitation, without question, and at great hardship, he exclaims:

By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing – “carry a message to Garcia!”


His frustration with the work ethic he saw displayed throughout society is clear. But it wasn’t written about the Millennials. Or Generation X. Or the Baby Boomers. It was written in 1899.

Kids these days…