[May 12, 2019] Yes, I had a job in Junior High School shoveling shit in Louisiana; cow manure to be specific. The line “shoveling shit in Louisiana” was made famous as a vulgar line used by U.S. General George S. Patton in a motivation speech to his troops on June 5th, 1944 (the day before D-Day).1
The speech was meant to encourage Patton’s troops to be real fighters in the battle against the Nazi war machine; which was about to begin in Europe the next day. You can read the entire speech in the link at the bottom of this article or see it on YouTube as part of a movie when George C. Scott played Patton in the movie (see YouTube link here, 6:08 minutes). This was a true motivation speech.
“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, “Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.” No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, “Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-Goddamned-Bitch named Georgie Patton!” – from U.S. Army General George S. Patton’s real speech
Psychologists say that motivation comes both from those things that pull us toward a goal (something great or wonderful) and by those things that push us toward a goal (something bad or scary). Well, I can say that shoveling shit is something that none of us aspire to do. It was one of those things that made me think real hard about what I did with my life. What I knew was that I didn’t want to shovel cow manure. Years later I joined the U.S. Army.
If you aspire to do well in life or as a leader, you need to identify what you want to achieve; or at least have a good idea of what you want to do (the pull). You also should identify what you believe to be the worst possible situation for your future self (the push). I believe that is why men do so many dangerous, outside jobs. The fear of being seen as weak or effeminate is a motivator for men.
Leadership can also be viewed this way. Identifying those things that motivate a person to be a better leader is something we should all do. When we internalize what it takes to go where only successful people go, we are on the path toward also being successful. There are leader tools we can use, but it’s the motivation that ultimately matters most.