Making Hay When the Sun Shines

This was one of my father’s favorite sayings and as every farmer knows, weather plays a critical role in the bounty of every harvest.  In essence, you have to get ready to be ready for every opportunity mother nature hands you.

Getting ready means thinking about alternatives and options.  Assessing your position in the marketplace.  Evaluating your skills and competencies, your depth and resources.  Being ready means building the systems and processes that will enable you to pounce on any opening, any opportunity.

George S. Greene, an austere 62-year-old Rhode Islander, was charged with holding Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.  When Greene arrived at Culp’s Hill (the far right of the Union line), he had plenty of troops and resources to secure the flank from any Confederate charge, but by mid afternoon, he was left with only 1,350 New Yorkers to defend his position.  Fortunately for Greene, and much to the dismay of his peers and troops, they spent most of the day building walls and entrenchments.

After Maj. Gen. George G. Meade shifted almost the entire XII Corps from the Union right to strengthen the left flank, Greene had five regiments to defend the left flank.  In Greene’s finest moment of the war, his preparations proved decisive and his brigade held off multiple attacks by an entire Confederate division (15,000 men) for hours. Had the breastworks not been built during a lull in the action (making hay when the sun shines), it is almost certain the line would have been breached, Baltimore Pike would have been taken, and the battle could have taken a completely different tact.

Maj. Gen. George Pickett‘s Charge and Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain’s 20th Maine’s defense of Little Round Top are two of the most famous stories of Gettysburg courage, but as far as planning for the future, my favorite is the engineer from Rhode Island, Brigadier General George S. Greene.  He made hay when the sun was shining.

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