Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You have to have an ear for this stuff - confusing a famous uncle with his nephew

While I dismiss motivational posters as a bunch of ho-hum, I'm a sucker for motivational articles, especially when they are seemingly founded in reality.


Inc. Magazine recently published an article entitled These 7 Motivational Navy SEAL Sayings Will Kick Your Butt Into Gear. The idea is that you can extrapolate lessons from Navy SEALs and apply them to business. Since I'm a fan of extrapolation, I read the article.

Here's part of the description of saying number 6.

6. No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

This is from Helmuth von Moltke, a German field marshal from World War I. Similar is this sentiment from Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."

Of course, with the World Cup still being played out, any mention of Mike Tyson recalls his famous ear-biting incident. In an effort to see if von Moltke ever had a Van Gogh/Suarez/Tyson moment, I decided to look him up...

...and discovered that there were two Helmuth von Moltkes, a nephew who was active in World War I, and an uncle who was active in the Franco-Prussian War. Since Inc. specifically mentioned World War I, I read up on the nephew...

...and discovered that the nephew's biography didn't match the saying attributed to him. Moltke the Younger was the Army Chief of Staff for Germany, and inherited a plan from his predecessor for the invasion of France.

His predecessor had drawn up the famous Schlieffen Plan, to be used during war to quickly defeat France in the west by means of a rapid, overwhelmingly powerful flank attack through Belgium and Holland, whilst a small army kept Russia at bay in the east.

Certainly von Moltke wouldn't rely too much on this plan, and would be able to improvise if things went wrong. Germany had no problem getting through Belgium (speaking of the World Cup), but things got worse as the Germans approached Paris. And von Moltke didn't improvise:

Failure to give clear orders during the Battle of the Marne in early September, as his forces neared Paris, resulted in field commanders ordering a retreat. Stalemate followed with trench warfare.

Wilhelm replaced Moltke with Erich Falkenhayn as Chief of Staff on 14 September 1914, effectively retiring Moltke.

Well, I did some more research, and it turns out that the statement about planning was not uttered by Helmuth von Moltke, the German field marshal from World War I. It was uttered by his uncle. It appears that the Inc. writer confused the two of them, citing the Younger when he should have cited the Elder.

The Navy SEALs have a saying about that:

7. All in, all the time.

Or, as the Inc. author put it,

Mediocrity and moderation won't get the job done. Give everything you do everything you've got.

And I, a high qualtiy writer who never makes misteaks, am willing to help Brent Gleeson do just that.
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