Book Review: A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard

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A Message to Garcia outlines the lessons to be learned from a Spanish-American War-era lieutenant who displayed a level of dedication to his work that we should all strive to match.

At its core, the book describes how working hard is the key to living well, staying virtuous, finding happiness and improving the world at large.

You may still be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you everything about this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Key Insights

Lesson 1: Falling short could have serious consequences.

Ever wondered about Garcia and his connection to us? Let’s take a trip back in time to the Spanish-American War in 1898. U.S. President William McKinley aimed to rally Cuban rebels to support American interests. Spain controlled Cuba, so these rebels could be a game changer for the U.S.

McKinley needed to get a message to Calixto Garcia, a key rebel leader. But it was no easy task. With the war in full swing, sending an American soldier through Cuba was risky, and they didn’t even know where Garcia was. They needed someone who could pull it off.

Enter Lieutenant Andrew Rowan. Colonel Arthur L. Wagner recognized him as the perfect candidate. Without hesitation, Rowan accomplished the mission, navigating enemy territory to deliver the message.

Though there aren’t any statues of Rowan around, he embodies the hardworking spirit we should all aspire to. Sadly, the lessons from his story are often missed. Fast action and dedication matter more than just book smarts.

Let’s aim to match Rowan’s initiative and commitment. 

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Lesson 2: Focus on cultivating a strong work ethic and a proactive attitude.

In today’s fast-paced world, we often come across stories of factory workers, sweatshop laborers, and job-seeking homeless individuals struggling against the “system.” While it’s true that many face challenges, it’s important to recognize that not all of them are solely victims of their circumstances. In some cases, their own attitudes and actions may contribute to their predicament.

Popular belief might have you think that most workers are incompetent and demanding, but this isn’t necessarily the case. To test this notion, consider conducting a simple experiment with your employees. Assign six of them a task to conduct light research on the Italian Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio, using a dictionary. You might find them asking a barrage of unnecessary questions, such as:

  • “What encyclopedia do you recommend?”
  • “Should I be responsible for this?”
  • “Is this really an emergency?”
  • “Are you interested in an encyclopedia so you can find out for yourself?”
  • “Why?”

Despite your patient responses, some may still try to shirk their responsibilities or deny that da Correggio even exists. You might find it easier to just read the encyclopedia entry yourself rather than dealing with uncooperative employees who could eventually be let go.

The reality is that employers will eventually notice employees who underperform, and consequences will follow. It’s the employees who exhibit determination and commitment to their tasks who ultimately succeed professionally. If you’re continually complaining or obstructing your team’s progress, management will have no choice but to terminate your employment.

Keep in mind that employers are constantly seeking ways to enhance their workforce by replacing weaker links. Incompetent employees are not just a drain on resources and time, but also pose a potential liability.

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Lesson 3: Negativity is a waste of time, so go or get in line!

Have you ever encountered someone who constantly complains, making mountains out of molehills? Their negative attitude often brings down their credibility, especially when they criticize their superiors or workplace. For instance, the author of A Message to Garcia, Elbert Hubbard, tells of a student at Yale College who had a bitter attitude toward the institution. This student’s behavior displayed their inclination to focus on minor issues, exaggerate their significance, and let them obstruct their ability to make the most of an outstanding educational opportunity.

When you complain about a “rotten” company or boss, you’re only exposing the negativity within yourself. Imagine an employee who feels their employer is holding them back. If asked to deliver a message to Garcia, they might respond with, “Why don’t you do it yourself?” In this scenario, who looks worse: the employer or the employee?

If you find your job unbearable, the best course of action is to quit. No one is perfect, but you should either fully commit to your job or find another one that suits you better. In other words, it’s time to either leave or get in line.

So, how can you “get in line”? By adjusting your mindset and attitude. Success and happiness stem from positive thinking, while failure and misery are born from negativity. Cultivating qualities like courage and positivity is essential for achieving success and building meaningful relationships.

Ultimately, your thoughts and actions lay the groundwork for your personality. What you think shapes what you do, and your actions, in turn, define who you are.

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Lesson 4: Hard work, personal growth, and genuine concern for others are the keys to a fulfilling life.

A full day’s work isn’t the only thing that matters in life. Your actions at work also influence your behavior in other areas and how you feel about yourself.

Hard work is the key to finding fulfillment. By dedicating yourself to your work, you can channel your energy into something productive, acquire valuable knowledge and skills that last a lifetime, and learn to balance your time among work, leisure, and study.

Many people mistakenly think that wealth and fame will bring happiness and eliminate the need for hard work. However, lacking self-discipline and commitment to your job can result in a sense of unfulfillment. Success shouldn’t make you idle, but rather drive you to contribute positively to your own life and those around you. Imagine if everyone pitched in a little; no one would need to work excessively long hours. We could easily meet all our needs without waste, and even eradicate world hunger if people stopped overindulging.

Instead of fixating on becoming rich, famous, or powerful, focus on doing good deeds. Aim for a life free of hatred, jealousy, and fear, allowing your positive attributes to radiate. Honesty, simplicity, and the willingness to acknowledge your limitations will take you far.

Treat everyone with respect and help others by teaching them the value of independence. Effective leadership involves leading by example, not controlling others. The road to virtue and success lies in a life of self-discovery, where you prioritize personal fulfillment.


1. The Message is Timeless

One of the most significant pros of A Message to Garcia is that the message is timeless. The book is about the importance of taking action and completing tasks without being told to do so. The message is simple, but it is one that is relevant even today. In a world where people are often distracted and procrastinate, the book serves as a reminder of the importance of taking responsibility and doing what needs to be done. The book is inspiring and motivating and can help readers develop a positive mindset towards life.

2. The Author’s Philosophy

Elbert Hubbard, the author of A Message to Garcia, was a prolific writer and a favorite of great leaders of his time, including Henry Ford and Theodore Roosevelt. Hubbard was a philosophical businessman who founded the Roycrofters, a community of artisans selling handcrafted goods. Hubbard believed that the greatest hero is the man who simply does his job, completing the task no matter what the obstacles. This philosophy is reflected in the book, and readers can learn a lot from it. The author’s philosophy can inspire readers to strive for excellence in whatever they do, and to take pride in their work.

3. The Book is Easy to Read

A Message to Garcia is easy to read and understand. The book is short, well thought out, and to the point. The language is simple, and the ideas expressed are easy to comprehend. The book is not difficult to read, and readers of all ages can benefit from its message. The essays in the book are equally valuable food for thought on a variety of subjects that are still relevant today, such as honesty, integrity, and the value of hard work.

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1. Poor Writing and Organization

Some readers find the book hard to follow and poorly written. The story is broken up by commentary throughout the book, making it difficult to read. It reads like a discombobulated and watered-down epic poem. Readers may find it better if the story itself were told first and then followed by commentary. If the author must break it up, it should be done in a chapter-style format, with a chapter of the story followed by commentary.

2. Redundant Preaching and Outdated Philosophy

While the book conveys a wonderful message about the importance of doing one’s job and completing tasks without being told to do so, some readers find the preaching redundant. The book is full of the typical “everybody but me is lazy and can’t be counted upon” type of rhetoric. The philosophy expressed in the book is outdated and not relevant in today’s workplace. The military has moved beyond the simple “salute sharply and move out” mentality, and leaders are encouraged to understand the Commander’s Intent and use adaptive planning to solve problems.

3. Self-Serving and Simplistic Philosophy

Some readers find the book’s philosophy to be self-serving and simplistic. The author’s world is cleanly divided between the few and rare carriers of messages to Garcia, who are worthy, and the worthless shirkers and incompetents who are not. The book advocates for a survival of the fittest mentality, which may not be suitable for everyone.

The book’s philosophy is self-serving, as it serves to benefit the author’s beliefs and worldview. The book is not a historical retelling of an exciting adventure, as some readers may have expected. Instead, it is a handful of stories, each with a moral at the end, much like Aesop’s fables.


A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard is a classic book that is still relevant today. The book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in career development and wants to be a better employee, leader, or person.

The book’s message is simple but powerful, emphasizing the importance of taking responsibility, doing what needs to be done, and striving for excellence. If readers spend some time digesting the ideas, it might make a positive impact on their lives.

The book encourages readers to live their lives with absolute honesty and integrity and set a good example for others to follow. Moreover, the book offers valuable insights for employees on how to make their bosses’ jobs easier and improve their relationships with them.

If you’re looking for inspiration and guidance on how to be a better worker or leader, A Message to Garcia is a must-read book that can help you achieve your goals.

About The Author

Author, artist, and philosopher Elbert Hubbard lived in the United States. The essay A Message to Garcia has been translated into 37 languages and sold over 40 million copies.

Buy The Book: A Message to Garcia

If you want to buy the book A Message to Garcia, you can get it from the following links:

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