Pillars of Strength
Synopsis: “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.” -T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
The advisor paused to wipe sand from his lips. “There aren’t enough of us.” He spoke the words without judgment, for it was simply a fact.
Around him rose rocky hills and a stiffening breeze rustled the expansive arms of the occasional Sidr tree. Awake since 0520 that morning, March 29th,1917, he felt fatigue creeping in past the cold in his limbs. Those who had not served on the Arab Peninsula could scarcely credit how cold it got here in the absence of the sun.
Three hundred faces looked at him. They were sun hardened, proud faces. They were the faces of kings and princes, for here in the desert every hill and valley were the fiefdom of someone, some clan who laid claim to the vastness and the nothingness.
It was now past 5PM and there were supposed to be at least one hundred more of them, but the shifting allegiances of these clans meant any promise of troops was at best a guess anyway. Nine tenths of tactics came from the books, he thought, and here is the irrational tenth, the part that would make the difference.
“We can’t take the station with this many infantry,” the advisor called out, “but we can do much damage with our artillery and guns.”
The Arabs around him nodded, agreement and then assent. Small groups of men began to disperse carrying heavy weapons, the few machine guns, mortars, wire and mines. He found himself pitching in despite warning himself against direct involvement. Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. It was good advice, but it was also useless. He wasn’t one to stand by and instead found himself leading several robed men through the desert at night. They found the telegraph line leading out of the station and through the desert. He cut it himself while the Arabs dug a pit for a mine. It was well after midnight when they started back to the main force.
And it was nearly dawn when the barrage began. Awake for over twenty-four hours, the fatigued advisor watched as shells began raining on the railroad station. The upper stories immediately caught fire. Then a cheer went up as the top of the building began collapsing in on the lower floors.
“Keep it up lads!” The advisor called over the din of battle.
They did, raining mortars on the train, the first car beginning to blaze. The desert breeze carried the flames and he watched as all six cars soon alight. There were flammables aboard the train, munitions perhaps, and it was soon exploding in odd increments into the night. Then, a new sound came screeching across the sand as a locomotive tried to pull out away from the blazing wreck above and behind it. It was reversing, picking up steam on the track toward Medina.
“Now! Now! Blow it now!” He was screaming, gesticulating wildly, the explosions making it impossible to be heard.
Again, the Arabs reacted with steady competence. The mine they had planted late at night exploded in a shower of red and green sparks, high into the night, the smell of sulfur drifting on the desert wind. Another cheer went up and the Arabs were moving forward to accept the surrender of the Turks who were steaming out of the station. There was no retribution, no anger. There was only cold efficiency as they stripped the prisoners of weapons and brought them into the Arab lines. God, these are good men. But he was exhausted, and so were they. It was time to pull back and preserve them for another fight, for there were many more to come. The advisor and his followers marched back to camp having captured and killed a few dozen Turkish soldiers, as well as taking a prized mare and a few camels, at the cost of a single wounded Arab.
By World War I, the Ottoman or Turkish Empire was a relic of centuries past, outdated and providing little value to its citizens. Revolutionary Arab tribes happened to stumble upon an effective communicator who helped them create a grand strategy and kept up their motivation when things went wrong. He would continue with his hit and run tactics for another year, successfully challenging Ottoman dominance over the Arab Peninsula. His name was T.E. Lawrence, and he penned a quasi-autobiographical account, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, about his service. After his death it became the basis for the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
Today, the shifting sands of the financial industry have led some consumers to revolt against business models that are likewise outdated and provide little value. When it comes to finding the right advisor, you don’t have to leave it to chance and hope for the best. Seek out the right person, the one who provides enough value to help you achieve financial freedom. No, you don’t need a heroic figure like Lawrence. But you do need a capable communicator and tactician. You need someone who takes your goals seriously enough to be hands-on. You need someone who takes the long view on strategy and is ready for the inevitable fights yet to come. That is the kind of advice revolutionaries or retirees need to “dream with open eyes” and make those dreams come true.
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