Self-doubt, Part 4
A story from WWII:
In the early fighting in Southeast Asia, the Japanese were seriously kicking the British Army’s butt. Things had reached such a desperate pass that an entire division, including its Gurkha components, had to be airlifted 1500 miles to safety—an emergency evacuation, though smaller, nearly on a par with Dunkirk.
But one Gurkha sergeant had been accidentally left behind. The poor guy was alone, with no radio, no compass. He had only his rifle and a map. The distance between him and his brothers-in-arms was unfathomable, across trackless jungle with which he was totally unfamiliar, to a needle-in-a-haystack place he had never been. He set off nonetheless.
Short version: nine months later, the Gurkha sergeant staggered into the base to which his division had been evacuated. He was barefoot, emaciated, sick with every kind of tropical disease imaginable. But he had miraculously made it! His mates swamped him ecstatically. His British colonel saluted him and made plans to honor his incredible achievement. Surely the sergeant’s feat was the greatest solo walking escape in the history of warfare.
The Gurkha sergeant spoke little English. but he was able to communicate his feelings to the colonel and his officers. He did not see his 1500-mile trek as particularly exceptional. After all, he said, “I had a map.”
He handed the map to the colonel. The paper was falling apart, the map itself torn and ragged and stained with jungle mud and dirt. “This is the map you used?” the colonel asked.
“The only one?”
The colonel held the map up for his officers to see. “This is a city map of London!”
Here’s the moral of the story, as I see it:
Self-belief (no matter how crazily-founded or materially divorced from reality) plus instinct plus grit may be the most powerful antidote to self-doubt.