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Charles Schwab had a mill manager whose men weren’t producing their quota of work.
“How is it,” Schwab asked, “that a man as capable as you can’t make this mill turn out what it should?”
“I don’t know,” the man replied. “I’ve coaxed the men; I’ve pushed them; I’ve sworn and cussed; I’ve threatened them with damnation and being fired. But nothing works. They just won’t produce.”
It happened to be the end of the day, just before the night shift came on.
“Give me a piece of chalk,” Schwab said. Then, turning to the nearest man: “How many heats did your shift make today?”
Without another word, Schwab chalked a big figure six on the floor, and walked away.
When the night shift came in, they saw the “6” and asked what it meant.
“The big boss was in here today,” the day men said. “He asked us how many heats we made, and we told him six. He chalked it down on the floor.”
The next morning Schwab walked through the mill again. The night shift had rubbed out “6” and replaced it with a big “7”.
When the day shift reported for work the next morning, they saw a big “7” chalked on the floor. So the night shift thought they were better than the day shift, did they? Well, they would show the night shift a thing or two. They pitched in with enthusiasm, and when they quit that night, they left behind them an enormous, swaggering “10.” Things were stepping up.
Shortly this mill, that had been lagging way behind in production, was turning out more work than any other mill in the plant.
Let Charles Schwab say it in his own words: “The way to get things done,” say Schwab, “is to stimulate competition. I do not mean in a sordid, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel.”
The desire to excel! The challenge! Throwing down the gauntlet! An infallible way of appealing to men of spirit.
Without a challenge, Theodore Roosevelt would never have been President of the United States. The Rough Rider, just back from Cuba, was picked for governor of New York State. The opposition discovered he was no longer a legal resident of the state; and Roosevelt, frightened, wished to withdraw. Then Thomas Collier Platt threw down the gauge. Turning suddenly on Theodore Roosevelt, he cried in a ringing voice: “Is the hero of San Juan Hill a coward?”
Roosevelt stayed in the fight – and the rest is history. A challenge not only changed his life; it had a real effect upon the history of this nation.
Charles Schwab knew the enormous power of a challenge. So did Boss Platt and Al Smith.
When Al Smith was governor of New York, he was up against it. Sing Sing, the most notorious penitentiary west of Devil’s Island, was without a warden. Scandals had been sweeping through the prison walls, scandals and ugly rumors. Smith needed a strong man to rule Sing Sing – an iron man. But who? He sent for Lewis E. Lawes of New Hampton.
“How about going up to take charge of Sing Sing?” he said jovially when Lawes stood before him. “They need a man up there with experience.”
Lawes was stumped. He knew the dangers of Sing Sing. It was a political appointment, subject to the vagaries of political whims. Wardens had come and gone – one had lasted only three weeks. He had a career to consider. Was it worth the risk?
And then Smith, who saw his hesitation, leaned back and smiled. “Young fellow,” he said, “I don’t blame you for being scared. It’s a tough spot. It’ll take a big man to go up there and stay.”
So Smith was throwing down a challenge, was he? Lawes liked the idea of attempting a job that called for a big man.
So he went. And he stayed. He stayed, to become the most famous warden alive. His book 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, sold into the hundreds of thousands of copies. He has broadcast on the air; his stories of prison life have inspired dozens of movies. And his “humanizing” of criminals has wrought miracles in the way of prison reform.
“I have never found,” said Harvey S. Firestone, founder of the great Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, “that pay and pay alone, would either bring together or hold good men. I think it was the game itself…”
That is what every successful man loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his worth, to excel, to win. That is what makes foot races and hog-calling and pie-eating contests. The desire to excel. The desire for a feeling of importance.
So, if you want to win men – spirited men, men of mettle – to your way of thinking, Rule 12 is this:
THROW DOWN A CHALLENGE.