“All right. Fair or unfair didn’t really come into it just now. She had a problem. She could either screen the captain and tell her she couldn’t make her deadline (and that thought wasn’t attractive at all), or she could decide that she was chief engineer aboard this bucket of bolts and figure out how to solve it.”
– from On Basilisk Station, by David Weber
Book 1 of the Honor Harrington series
I’ve just started in on this book, and the series it begins, and I am enjoying the experience.
This quote comes from a pivotal moment in the story. Up until this point, a new ship commander and her veteran crew have basically been given the short end of the stick again and again… and again and again and again. Morale has been low, performance has been wanting, and they’ve been given an impossible task, the inevitable failure of which will ruin them even more. Most people, it is fair to say, would collapse and give up. But not this commander. No, she conjures up solutions, ways to use whatever she has in order to accomplish the so-called “impossible.” And it works. It’s extremely demanding, but it works.
The crew, and their officers, all have moments like this (though we only need to see a few of them to get the point across). Their commander had one, too. Whatever the problem each of them faces, it all boils down to one choice: either give up, or face the problem.
From that moment on, the crew begins to regain their dignity, collective and individual, through hard work, creative thinking, and, most of all, their attitude. These breed success where failure was assumed, as they adapt and overcome. They were handed a most unfair situation, one they did not remotely earn, and they not only made the best of it, they worked miracles. And it all has root in their attitude.
How well we face a problem is determined by our attitude towards facing it.
I remember this one moment, years and years ago. I was riding my bike on the way to a public transit station, on my way to some task involved in getting a specific job. I was pedaling across a street when the metal piece that held the seat in place under my butt suddenly broke, coming apart with a snap. How I managed to stay upright, with the seat suddenly tilting straight back, perpendicular to its previous position, I do not know. I just remember holding on tight, staying up, and pedaling very awkwardly for a few heart-racing seconds to get to the other side of the street before any oncoming cars decided to make a pancake out of me. I made it to the sidewalk, very carefully and awkwardly got off the bike and onto my feet, and considered what to do now. It did not get any simpler when I rounded the bend and saw that the sidewalk I would need to be using was undergoing some construction work.
I remember that I began to come up with a bunch of options, and then sweeping them all aside in my head. First, I had to choose: either go forward, despite current and future problems, or go back home. And I am notoriously stubborn. 😉
So, I went forward, navigated all the problems, succeeded in my mission that day. I still wasn’t able to get the job I was after at the time, but I still gained something valuable from the experience. From that day to this, I have tried to approach my troubles with an attitude to persevere and adapt. Or, yes, it is sometimes necessary to pull the plug and start again. But whether one goes forward or back, one has to make the choice and stick with it. It is the middle ground, the limbo between those two choices, which breeds the misery of unaccomplished tasks.
Fairness does not enter into it. We have problems, of every sort. We can either give up on them, or we can solve them. But we have to choose, the one, or the other.