Note: These are the author’s interpretation of quotes said in a context completely separate from today. General Patton was not speaking of 2018, and he certainly wasn’t concerned with what the popular culture might look like nowadays.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
Thinking in terms of groups is nothing new — we are, after all, creatures who have survived based on our ability to contribute to a group. If everyone in a tribal society can agree that they need food, they will agree to work together to develop a system of efficiently gathering or hunting food, and another system to prepare it. They all function under the one same objective that they can all agree upon: they need food.
As ancient civilization has transformed into an industrial, modern society, we have taken these feelings natural to the human condition and applied them where they don’t belong — to strange places in everyday life in the 21st century. We apply it to incredibly complex things like politics, and use the group-think mentality to build up our own “side” in order to make it as strong as possible.
What ends up happening, especially when discussing politics, is that we become more interested in bolstering our side than anything else — often times we are more interested in that than thinking independently. It is highly unlikely that any group of individual thinkers are going to happen to all believe the same things. If you find yourself among likeminded people, that’s fine, but if you find yourself among likeminded people who you never happen to profoundly disagree with on anything — then perhaps you may take Gen. Patton’s advice and realize: somebody isn’t thinking.
“Do more than is required of you.”
In today’s age, we train ourselves to complete the bare minimum.
“I’m going to college — but school sucks. I hate the education system we have today, but I need a degree. ‘Cs get degrees,’ and while I could study, improve myself and go above and beyond, I’m going to slide on by doing as little as possible.”
“Just got out of the military, and everyone must respect me for my service. The moment I got my DD-214 was the moment I stopped serving and began demanding respect from those around me, instead of earning it every day.”
“My relationship is falling apart… but instead of sitting down and talking things out, I think I’ll just wait until the last fight blows over. We’ll be on amicable terms, at least on the face of it, and we’ll just pretend like nothing went wrong until the next big fight (which will probably be exponentially worse).”
These are some of the realities that many of us are guilty of (I have been guilty of all three), but might not admit to ourselves so bluntly. How about taking a more difficult path, going above and beyond, and excelling in everything that is asked of you? It takes a lot of patience, hard work, discipline and, in some instances, different kinds of courage.
“Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.”
There is this underlying idea in American society that all you need in order to be successful is the will to succeed. No doubt, this comes from the fundamental American ideal that it doesn’t matter what race, religion or class you start as — if you have the will to succeed and the work ethic to see it through, you will become successful.
However, this idea has slowly morphed into something new. People no longer see it as a starting quality that will push you to success — they see it as the only necessary quality. They forget that we live in a practical world, and that a hard work ethic and drive to succeed is only fuel for the fire, but they are not the fire itself.
Gen. Patton was speaking in the context of a war. A moral, courageous man still cannot defeat an enemy if he does not have the practical tools (or training) to do so. Similarly, a moral, driven person in the civilian world cannot achieve their goals if they do not also gather the tools that enable them to be successful (this could mean education, getting into the right networks, or gaining practical experience). This is obvious when it comes to professions like doctors and lawyers, but it also applies to being a businessman, or a writer or a cook. No profession can be attained simply by pure force of will. You have to become tutored — educated, even — in your chosen field in order to find success.
What’s your favorite Gen. Patton quote? How might it apply to today’s world?
Images courtesy of the Associated Press.