Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet 120

Here are three excerpts from a book I recently read,
"It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership," by Colin Powell:

Time management is an essential feature of decision-making. One of the first questions a commander considers when faced with a mission on the battlefield is “How much time do I have before I execute?” Take a third of that time to analyze and decide. Leave two-thirds of the time for subordinates to do their analysis and make their plans. Use all the time you have. Don’t make a snap decision. Think about it, do your analysis, let your staff do their analysis. Gather all the information you can. When you enter the range of 40 to 70 percent of all available information, think about making your decision. Above all, never wait too long, never run out of time. 

In the Army we had an expression, OBE—overtaken by events. In bureaucratic terms being OBE is a felonious offense. You blew it. If you took too much time to study the issue, to staff it, or to think about it, you became OBE. The issue has moved on or an autopilot decision has been made. No one cares what you think anymore—the train has left the station.

I still have to have a hot dog on my walk, but all the bodyguards and police cars are gone, as is the Waldorf suite. Shortly after leaving State, I went up to a hot dog stand on Fifth Avenue and ordered my standard fare. As the attendant was finishing up my hot dog, a look of recognition came across his face, but he struggled to pull up my name. “I know you,” he said. “I see you on television.” Then, as he handed me the hot dog, it hit him. “Ah, yes, of course, you’re General Powell.” I handed him the money, but he refused to take it. “No, General, no, you don’t owe me anything. I’ve been paid. America has paid me. I will never forget where I came from, but now I am here, I am an American. I’ve been given a new life, and so have my children. Thank you, please enjoy the hot dog.” 

I thanked him and continued up the avenue, feeling a warm glow as the recognition came over me once again. What a country . . . still the same country that gave my immigrant parents that open door and welcome ninety years ago. We must never forget that has been our past; it is certainly our present and future.

Nearly sixty years later, I am considered one of CCNY’s greatest sons. I have received almost every award the school can hand out; an institute at CCNY has been named after me, the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service; and I have been titled a Founder and Distinguished Visiting Professor. Most of my professors have to be spinning in their graves over all that. 

My city believed that kids like me deserved a shot at the top. The people of New York City were willing to be taxed to educate the “whole people”—poor kids like me with immigrant parents, Jews who couldn’t get into other schools because they were Jews, young adults with jobs who could only go to night school (it might take them seven years to finish), kids who lived at home and came in every morning by subway or bus. Education like the one I got at CCNY was how the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free were integrated into America’s social and economic life. Education was—and still is—the Golden Door. 

Though I only walked away with a diploma by the skin of my teeth, I did come out of college with a wonderful liberal arts education. I found in the years to come that I was able to perform well alongside my West Point, Citadel, VMI, and A&M buddies . . . as well as my buddies from other colleges and universities all over the country. We were all a band of brothers.

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