Mentorship and “A Message to Garcia”

My career was shaped by many, but Mr. Hampton had a profound impact on me as a young college student.
H. Michael Burgett
Contributing Writer

In reflection there is often a time where we may examine our life and point out a specific moment that made an impact upon us professionally and/or personally. It has been said that we are shaped by our individual experiences and if we are lucky, there are mentors who invested in us, challenged us, and prepared us for the next leg of our journey.

If there was a Mount Rushmore of the leaders who made an impact upon my life, W.F. (Dub) Hampton, would surely be carved into my granite of remembrance.

At 19 years old and in my first year of college in my hometown of Pensacola Florida, I was afforded the opportunity to work for a former high school teacher, in my first technology job. We were at the forefront of the personal computer industry and I was employed to assist in configuring computer systems for small and medium sized businesses.

Mr. Hampton, before starting his company, had recently retired from teaching, where he taught appropriately for the age, a high school typing class. In fact, it was Mr. Hampton in my 9th grade year who had the honor of awarding me the first “C” on my report card. “Typing was a skill”, he informed me and perhaps my accepting the finality of the results of my effort that semester was just a foreshadowing of other life lessons to come from this great man.

I worked for Mr. Hampton that first year in college but alas my wanderlust led me to the decision that it was time for bigger and better things, and I announced my plan to transfer to Florida State University and leave my hometown for new horizons. Disappointed as he was for me leaving, that ex-Navy pilot assuredly understood the need for a young man to carve his own path.

It was a few months before my planned departure for Tallahassee that Mr. Hampton gave me a new assignment. I was asked to find a synopsis of a book that he read a long time ago. He was purposely vague about the name of the book or instruction on how I was to find the information – but set me on the task.

As a young buck in that day I promised to get to it, but alas he had to remind me a few times of his request. It wasn’t until my last day of work that I went to the local library and found the book “Message to Garcia (Little Books of Wisdom)”. As I read the short text – I quickly learned the message he had sought to instill.

In brief, the book is about a man (Rowan) being tasked with an important mission and that those who are quick to take action, and complete a task are those that are most valued. As I had delayed in completing what I deemed a trivial, non-urgent assignment, the message spoke perfectly at that moment and further instilled a desire to be known as someone that can be relied upon to get things done for the sake of all involved.

This small task, but huge life lesson was a gift that continues to shape my perspective today. I doubt Mr. Hampton knew at the time the impact that this exercise would have upon my walk, but it is often said that the giver may never know the true impact of the gift.

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” – Elbert Hubbard

It is in recognition of Mr. Hampton and the time-tested parable of “A Message to Garcia” that I gift this book to each and every employee in our organization. I would encourage anyone to spend some time with this short read. I can assure you that as we strive to improve and better ourselves that its message of individual initiative and conscientious approach toward our work is one of high value for all.

In the end we should all strive to be known as a “Rowan” who can “Carry a Message to Garcia”. Thank you Mr. Hampton.

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