Often times business owners will recommend books to their new employees and office staff. One book repeatedly recommended is a classic: The Go Getter by Peter B. Kyne. I have noticed that this book is also recommended by nationally-known business and success coaches to entry-level executives and sales staff. In fact, several newer publications of the book include a preface written by one nationally-known and successful individual or another. These books also contain a modern or more-detailed explanation than what is found in the original book. What makes this book (and the modern variations that have appeared since) popular today? I believe this popularity is based on the motto of one of the primary characters – “It shall be done.”
The Go Getter was first published in 1921. Its author, Peter B. Kyne (1880-1957), is unique among business success authors because all indications suggest that he did not set out to write a book about business or success. Mr. Kyne was an author of short stories and movie screenplays, often set in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Go Getter is no different and contains a character, Capt. Cappy Ricks, who appears in other Kyne stories of the same period. The character who sets this book apart from Mr. Kyne’s other short stories is a young World War I veteran, William E. Peck.
The story opens with Cappy Ricks, an older, highly successful California lumberman, complaining about the lack of initiative and integrity among certain of his employees. At this moment, William Peck enters the office of Cappy Ricks. William Peck is seeking employment and though he has been already been rejected by several other businesses and by Cappy Ricks’ own staff as well. Mr. Peck is undeterred by these previous rejections, and seeks employment directly from Cappy Ricks. Mr. Peck’s physical appearance sets him apart from most other potential job hunters. As a disabled veteran from World War I, he walks with a prominent limp and has lost part of one arm. Although no positions are currently available, Cappy Ricks is impressed by William Peck’s positive attitude, including his initiative of printing business cards labeling him as an employee of Mr. Ricks before he has been hired. Mr. Ricks decides to take a chance and hire Mr. Peck.
Mr. Peck is then given the most difficult sales assignment—selling skunk spruce lumber. He immediately begins to crisscross the Western United States and quickly sells out of this challenging merchandise. After his success, Mr. Peck is given better products and assignments, which he also successfully sells without neither problem nor complaint.
As the story continues, an important job opening becomes available in the company’s Shanghai office. The main candidate for the position is William Peck. However, before Cappy Ricks will feel confident about extending the job offer to Mr. Peck, there is one last challenge for the young veteran. Mr. Peck must complete the purchase of a specific blue vase and deliver it to Cappy Ricks before he leaves town that evening. The vase is to be given as a present for a friend at Mr. Ricks’ travel destination.
This “simple” assignment becomes far more complicated than Cappy Ricks originally suggested. A good portion of the remainder of the story follows William Peck as he overcomes multiple, roadblocks, misinformation, both time and monetary constraints, as well as uncooperative individuals in order to both procure the vase and transport it to Cappy Ricks before his scheduled event since he missed the original delivery deadline. This assignment culminates with William Peck providing the only item of great monetary value he possessed as collateral in order to purchase the vase and then recruiting a pilot friend to fly him to a location where he could intercept a train to deliver the desired vase directly to Cappy Ricks.
Ricks is surprised and delighted to have the desired vase presented to him by William Peck on his train in the middle of the night. The surprise stems from the knowledge that Ricks deliberately designed an assignment that was impossible to complete. In fact, Cappy Ricks had utilized this test to assess potential candidates for years, including the current executives in his company, with no one actually succeeding. Often times, the candidates would become frustrated and would quit once the first roadblocks were encountered. Some had resorted to breaking into the shop to illegally acquire the vase. William Peck was the only person who, with a positive attitude and perseverance, accomplished the task.
When asked by Cappy Ricks how he developed his “go-getter” attitude, Mr. Peck relayed the story of his experiences after he received severe injuries during the war. While in bed, wounded, suffering from his multiple injuries, and wondering whether it was worthwhile to go on, he was reminded by his commander of his brigade’s motto “It Shall Be Done.” No matter how difficult the task or roadblocks placed before him, having the attitude of “It shall be done” always allowed him to find a way to overcome whatever challenge was placed before him.
Oftentimes people will become discouraged as they encounter roadblocks along their way. They quit trying and then provide varying excuses which blame forces allegedly outside their control for their failure. Those who are successful know that multiple roadblocks and setbacks will occur in anything worthwhile to pursue. Instead of quitting, these individuals move forward, overcome obstacles, look at a failure as a learning opportunity, adapt, evolve, and to find a way to succeed. These individuals are the real life “go-getters.”
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