The Greatest General
by Terry Camsey, Major –
I read an interesting comment a while ago and find myself repeatedly coming back to it. It said this: “Glenn Miller never realized his potential. He played to the limit of his ability, but not beyond.” The implication was that, since he never made a mistake, he could not have been pushing himself beyond what he felt he was capable of—else mistakes en route would have been inevitable.
It interested me for several reasons, not least of which has been the sheer exhilaration of attempting and succeeding in public to accomplish on the cornet what I had previously only achieved in private rehearsal. In fact I remember well the first time I played “Clear Skies” with the International Staff Band. Just before going on to the platform I told the Bandmaster (Colonel Bernard Adams) that I’d like to add some lip arpeggios to the beginning of the cadenza. “Don’t mess it up!” he said—hardly words to encourage risk-taking but sufficient to make me think, “I’ll show you!”
It is in striving to achieve our full potential that mistakes are inevitable; not that we deliberately try to make mistakes in an effort to reach that potential, but that it is as we strive to “push the envelope,” to realize levels of achievement we thus far have only dreamed about, that mistakes occur. We learn the pathway to increased skill levels as, in search of the ultimate, we try things we have never tried before—stumbling, picking ourselves up and trying again, each victory setting the bar higher.
Surely there are few cornet/trumpet players as skilled as Winton Marsalis, and yet look at what he said:
“You never know when you are going to fail. That’s just part of succeeding—failing. And it’s not that big of a deal. It’s something to laugh about. You can pick yourself up and go on to tomorrow. That’s the beauty of it. That’s how you succeed.”
John R. Welter has suggested that, “When the pace of change outside an organization is greater than the pace of change inside an organization, the end is near.” That’s a very sobering thought in these times of rapid and incremental change. Erica Jong suggests that, “…the trouble is if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
Charles Handy advises that, “The future is not inevitable. We can influence it, if we know what we want it to be.” And Peter Drucker adds this word of wisdom, “long range planning doesn’t deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”
All of which should give us cause to really consider what we believe God wants that future to look like. And that, in turn challenges us to be prepared to make and learn from mistakes as we step out—like so many pioneers—into the unknown. That demands not only faith but courage!
It has been said that many die without having “played” all the “music” inside of them. They have never realized their full potential and, indeed, may not even have discovered God’s will for their lives.
There is a story of a man who arrived in heaven and asked St. Peter who was the greatest general that ever lived. St. Peter pointed him to an old man sitting a short distance away.
“But,” said the man, “I know him…he was only a cobbler in my home town.”
“Ah,” said St. Peter, “but if he had become a general he would have been the greatest general in the history of the world!”
How many potentially great people reading this article have not discovered their God-given potential, or worse, have done nothing to develop it? The Army needs “generals,” whatever arena of ministry God has gifted them for.