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Measuring Our Full Body of Work

Beyond the Titanic and Little Big Horn


   No one wants to be remembered as the Captain of the Titanic. The sinking in the Atlantic Ocean of the world’s greatest luxury liner by an iceberg in 1912 has become one of history’s most infamous maritime stories.

   The Battle of Little Big Horn was considered one of the great American military failures to date when in 1876 the Commander of a United States Calvary regiment made tactical errors, underestimated the enemy and was routed by Native American forces.

   Captain Edward John Smith and General George Foster Custer are easily known for their tragic last acts in command, the sinking of the Titanic and Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn. The end result of their last commands cost many people their lives and marked their careers. Measured solely by these isolated events, most observers would rank these gentlemen two of the biggest losers of their era.

   But a closer look at history and by measuring their full bodies of work; Smith and Custer were ultra-successful, decorated and accomplished professionals who had successfully commanded ships and troops for many years with commendation and bravery.

   Captain Smith was a veteran of the British Royal Navy and rose quickly through the ranks of the commercial passenger ship trade. He commanded several maiden voyages of the world’s newest and expensive ships successfully and was considered one of the world’s finest ship captains. In fact, Smith was the requested captain of the aristocracy of England whenever they made their trans-Atlantic voyages.

   General Custer was a decorated commander and graduate of West Point Military Academy. Custer rose in the ranks of the Union Army and was considered to have played decisive roles in the major battles of the Civil War that helped the Union Army win. His prowess and leadership skills were highly recognized and he was given command of troops in the Indian Wars and was popular among his men.

   I mention these two historical events and these two men today for several reasons. Whatever tragedy befalls us or whatever dreadful failure we might experience, or even preside over; it does not, and should not tell our whole life’s story. We must examine the full body of every person’s life and work. Everyone may not command a ship that wrecks or lead a calvary to slaughter, but each of us will stumble and fall in life. We will make a huge personal life mistake or become part of a project or enterprise that will blunder.

   Society and critics are quick to judge and make assumptions about the last or worst events of your life. But by looking beyond those titanic moments and little big horn experiences of others, we may discover with great surprise the real accomplishment and beauty that resides in the lives of others. We must always consider the full body of work as the truest measurement of a person’s life contribution and cease judging others for one big event.

   So as we evaluate history and the lives of other people, let’s broaden our scope and make allowances for the success and accomplishment that can often lay beneath the rubble of our last or worst events. When you do, you might even decide to sail again with Captain Smith or go into battle under the command of General Custer. And by looking deeper into the full body of work of others; you will nearly always find that the sparkles usually outnumber the splinters.

Joe Turnham has gained a national reputation both as a political figure and tier-one consultant to a myriad of clients. Joe’s services are in demand nationally as a consultant, speaker, political advisor and commentator. Click here to learn more about Joe.

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