A lesson from the D-Day invasion

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
George Washington Carver
1864 – 1943

Most of us know that the D-Day invasion was a pivotal turning point in World War II. It occurred on June 6, 1944 and involved nearly 4,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and over three million soldiers.  Months of planning went into the operation.

There’s a little known but highly valuable lesson concerning the invasion that I’d like to share with you.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the leader of the allied troops. Eisenhower knew that the invasion would be met with strong resistance and might fail. Therefore, on the day before the invasion, he penned the following announcement, which he intended to use if the invasion was unsuccessful.

“Our landings in the Cherbroug – [Le] Harve area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attached to the attempt it is mine alone.”

Gen. Eisenhower was prepared to take full responsibility for anything that went wrong. His statement did not seek to make excuses or deflect blame in any way.

The failure of this operation would have had serious consequences for the Allied forces. Despite the high loss of lives and equipment, the invasion did succeed.

The important lesson here is Eisenhower’s willingness to take full responsibility for his actions; the willingness to take responsibility is the sign of a real leader.

Our daily actions have far less drastic impact than the D-Day mission, yet we often attempt to deflect responsibility for our choices. I think it’s important to contrast Eisenhower’s behavior with the typical business and political behavior today, when spin doctors work to re-frame every situation in the best possible light.

There’s tremendous freedom to be gained by accepting responsibility for our decisions. In fact, it’s the foundation for a more successful and satisfying life. Unless we’re willing to take responsibility for our choices, we will never learn to make better choices.

Let General Eisenhower’s actions be an inspiration and serve as an example for your own behavior. Learn this important lesson from the D-Day invasion: always accept full responsibility for your choices.

And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.
William Shakespeare
1564 – 1616

Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor

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