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Exceed Expectations – George Patton

Posted on Friday, April 22, 2022
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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38 Comments
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U.S. General George Patton believed leadership meant exceeding expectations. “Always … do more than is required of you.” He did, and it worked. We can, and it will.

What does it mean to “exceed expectations?” How do you do that? Why bother in times of unabashed mediocrity? Why be your best if you can be average or a victim?

For many, exceeding expectations seems a waste of time. It is not. Only when you have traveled far and look back do you see how unremitting effort pays off; languishing erodes self-respect.

For those of a certain generation, Star Trek’s Gene Rodenberry, Captain Kirk, Spock, and Doc said it all. Their mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Conceive the impossible, embrace it. That was Apollo – walking on the moon. We imagined, then did it.

How do we do that? We must push the possible, got to the edge. Think bigger and imagine. We can only know our true capacity when we test our limits, so test them, dare it.  

We only learn by doing, which involves risk, and invites failure. But here is the secret, what no one says.  Success is built on failures – doing, failing, learning, retrying, and resilience to succeed.

Winston Churchill, who failed most of his life until he saved the world, wrote: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” And: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Not words, he did it.

On any given day, greatness – having a breakthrough day – is not an accident. Although not possible without imagining such a day, it is always possible, pursuing the dream.

Most who understand “exceeding expectations” think of it as comparative, better than someone, becoming a standout in scholarship, indispensable at work, a new highwater mark. If others put in 80 percent, count me for 90. If most do ten reps, try eleven. If others run 3 miles, run four.

That is a start, but not Patton. Where others took the measure of the world and aimed to exceed it, that’s not what Patton did at West Point in WWII in Sicily, France, and Germany. He set his own expectations – about everything – and then exceeded them.

Standing on ancient battlefields, he imagined – he vicariously experienced – what had happened there. A voracious reader of history, he saw colors others missed and took them on. He read until the battle lived before him and learned from what he saw, doing more than required.

Patton tapped his heart, extracting power to reach higher, see how high he could reach. The further he reached, the higher he got; the more courage he showed, the more he found. He set his own expectations, then pressed to exceed them.

Patton assumed risk – on the rifle range, misappropriating a tank to take it apart and rebuild it, in the 1912 Olympics (competing in the modern pentathlon), and at war. What animated him was something within, not without. He did not care what anyone called limits since the only person who knew his limits – was him, and he kept testing them.

To fight in North Africa, he read the Koran, seeking to understand those who revered it. He did the same with the Germans and military doctrine. Leading in battle, he ran before his tanks.

On December 20, 1944, having led in Sicily, gotten benched for insensitivity, and restored to lead the Third Army, Patton was pushing into Germany. The 101st Airborne had dropped into Bastogne.

That location would decide the war – because if Germany attacked there, broke through, got to Antwerp, could divide the American and British Armies, sue for peace, it would be over. But there was no attack yet. The famous “Battle of the Bulge” was coming.

Within days, the 101st, 506th Infantry Regiment and others, would be surrounded by Germans, seemingly doomed. The Germans would demand surrender. The Americans would respond “Nuts!” But the courageous 101st was frozen, low on ammunition, food, and medical supplies.

Here is where exceeding his own expectations comes in. Patton’s Third Army should have been out of reach – unable to rescue the 101st at Bastogne. But Patton had studied German history.

As a result, Patton had been “methodically accumulating evidence since early November 1944 that raised suspicions in his mind that the Germans were up to something in the north,” where Bastogne lay. Anticipating a German attack there – which others thought crazy – he prepared.

Leadership called the scenario impossible. Patton ignored them. He set his own expectations and prepared to exceed them if needed. He evaluated contingencies, prepared to pivot the Third Army 90 degrees, and attack north – toward Bastogne.

With no orders, he was 100 rough miles from Bastogne. But this was his “finest hour.” The Nazis did as Patton suspected – attacked at Bastogne, the least likely spot. Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower then asked with trepidation – a week to get there?

Patton responded: “I can attack with three divisions in forty-eight hours.” Command in shock, he did just that, saved them, turned the Battle of the Bulge, and chased Hitler’s troops to their end.

In short, Patton did “more than was required” and – as with Churchill’s conviction that failures precede success – Patton saved the day, the battle, and arguably the war.

Being determined to “exceed expectations” is not a bumper sticker. It is a way of life – and it works. If you resolve to think big, risk failure, know you will fall, and press on, you can exceed high expectations. What others do is one reference point. What you reach for is entirely you. Patton reached – every day – as high as his mind, heart, imagination, scholarship, and sense of the possible allowed. Because he did, we get the chance – and it is worth taking.

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Betty Harrison
Betty Harrison
2 years ago

my brother served under Patton with the third his stories of him were great He thought Patton wasGREAT

Rik
Rik
2 years ago

Jackass Joe IS exceeding expectations, he’s F_____g everything up to almost beyond repair!

Scott
Scott
2 years ago

My driver’s ed teacher in high school was in the 3rd Army. His proudest moments were being addressed by Patton: “How ya doin’, Freckles?”

Indeed, he did not have to tell his kids that in WWII he shoveled manure in Louisiana.

Patton knew (as did Grant) that you win not by fighting but by winning; war was not “ended” but *won*, and that was done by hurting the enemy as much as possible until he could fight no more.

Not pretty, not glamorous, but effective.

Where are such great men today?

The Wizard
The Wizard
2 years ago

GSPjr was THE quintessential warrior. He never backed down. He overcame severe dyslexia as a boy to become our winningest general of all time.

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 years ago

He is turning in his grave in today’s climate he most probably be court marshaled heck he would not be allowed to be what he was

2004done
2004done
2 years ago

In the early 70s, the attitudes were already less from leadership than I expected. I didn’t have the inspiration that, in hindsight, was provided by a “no-nonsense we’re here-to-win,” attitude. My understanding is our military now also would look back and think “it was better, then.”
I guess that only shows that our History is Very Important to our Future, and might be a reason for enemies of our country (foreign or domestic) to try to erase it.

PaulE
PaulE
2 years ago

It is very sad to say RBC, but today someone like General Patton would be drummed out of the service for holding attitudes that go against both the prevailing military and civilian leadership of the country. He would be viewed as showing up the inadequacies of the rest of the chain of command.

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 years ago

would it not be interesting to know who ordered the “accident” the rot that was there then is here now

Ralph B Cardinal
Ralph B Cardinal
2 years ago

I would truly enjoy a robust debate between General Patton and general milley.

Max
Max
2 years ago

RBC, another fine article. It is just too bad that there is not a “Patton” style leader out there that could survive in today’s political atmosphere. Below, Paul E makes this similar comment. You are correct with Patton’s readiness of his Army group prior to the Battle of the Bulge. His intelligence section had already identified the location of 7 Panzer/tank divisional HQs and had surmised that the Germans had an offensive plan in the works to spring on the Allies on the Western front. SHAEF HQ downplayed the intelligence summary due to the “Christmas ” mentality going around the front. The rest is history.

DonS
DonS
2 years ago

An excellent read and review of history, RBC! I possess a number of WWII films, including “Patten.” Without warriors like Patten, I doubt if I would have been free today. At three years old at the start of the War, I hold the greatest of respect and admiration for the “Greatest Generation!”

Kate
Kate
2 years ago

Excellent article. All the articles have been motivating. I now want to read a Patton biography. Keep the positive and motivating coming. Thank you.

Dave T
Dave T
2 years ago

My dad was in Patton’s army during WWII. Dad said that the orders of the day would be posted each morning by General Patton, things like “Company A will do this, Company B will do that, etc. But one day after weeks of constant rain, the General ended his orders with, “The sun will shine.” And it did!!

BillBoyBaggins
BillBoyBaggins
2 years ago

This is a good story, but it needs edited.

Steve
Steve
2 years ago

Endeavor to persevere! A motto to live by.

Rhonda
Rhonda
2 years ago

A great man.

Jeanette
Jeanette
2 years ago

Patton was not always liked by his men but they totally respected him. We need more good generals like him. He took charge of the situation and delivered.

Michael
Michael
2 years ago

A Great warrior and leader…my father Served with this truly remarkable General during the long March intoBerlin…many stories of heroismOf our brave fathers to rid the devil.My father endured bloodshed andDidn’t expect to live..talked of whatDay would be good to die on…Freed A concentration camp abandoned By krauts..skeletons left walking towardsThem..left nightmares in their mindsTo haunt forever…but General PattonKnew these visions as they pursedThe devil would be a major factor toKeep the March on..that we can neverEver let this happen again..if humanityWas ever to survive…each town theyTook..he gave Hershey candy barsTo the innocent children..as to sayIt’s OK…the evil is gone…Krauts would throw their uniformsAside..and wave the American FlagTo Honor it…not to burn or kneelAs today…After the war my father…germansAnd japaneses..Met with tears..About the horrors of war wouldBe buried in their minds forever…Must never ever happen again..My father was a squad leaderIn 3rd army…after berlin…sentTo phillipines for invasion of JapanAlso fought in phillipines…And Korean war….Never carried a gun again..lived to 92General Patton inspired him and otherYoung Men in their teens and Twenties To go forward into the bloody battleOf hell to free Germany of a dictator…WW2 was hopefully the end of evil…

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