Mr. Galen Litchfield, the manager of Asia Life Insurance, was in Shanghai when Japanese troops invaded. This was in 1942, after the invasion of Pearl Harbor.
A Japanese Admiral was sent to liquidate the company’s assets. Litchfield was ordered to assist in this liquidation. He didn’t have any choice. He could either cooperate or face the grim consequences of certain death.
He was ordered to compile a list of the company’s assets-but there was one block of securities worth $750,000, which he left off the list because they belonged to the Hong Kong organization and were not part of the Shanghai assets.
Still, he feared the Admiral’s wrath should the omission be discovered.
And it was discovered-soon afterward.
Litchfield wasn’t in the office when the discovery was made; only the head accountant.
Litchfield received the chilling new on a Sunday afternoon. The accountant told him that the Admiral had flown into a terrible rage. He had stomped and cursed and branded Litchfield a thief, traitor, and scoundrel.
Litchfield knew the consequences of defying the Japanese Army. They were grim. He would be fling into the Bridgehouse! The name alone filled people with fear. It was a torture chamber. Litchfield had personal friends who had committed suicide rather than be taken to the Bridgehouse. Other friends had died in the Bridgehouse after only ten days. Now it seemed Litchfield himself was destined for the chamber of horror.
Litchfield went to the typewriter in his room in the Y.M.C.A. He wrote out two questions. The first: What am I worrying about? The second: What can I do about it? He had used this technique for years whenever he had a problem. Now, the answers might save his life. Writing down the answers to these questions clarified his thinking.
He wrote that the problem was that he was afraid that he might be thrown in the Bridgehouse.
“What,” he asked himself, “would he do about it?”
He spent hours answering the second question. He came up with four possible courses of action and weighed each one.
One, he could try to speak to the Japanese Admiral. But the Admiral spoke no English. He could use the interpreter, but this might only irritate the Admiral, for he was an irrational and cruel man who would rather let the sadists in the Bridgehouse deal with interrogations.
Two, he could try to escape. But his chances were slim. The Japanese kept track of him all the time. He had to check in and out of his room at the Y.M.C.A. If he did get caught trying to escape, he would be shot.
Three, he could stay in his room and never go near the office again. But, if he did, the Admiral would become suspicious. Soldiers would be sent to get him and they would throw him into the Bridgehouse.
Four, he could go down to the office on Monday morning as usual, pretending that nothing was wrong. Perhaps, the Admiral would have cooled off by then. Perhaps, he would be too busy to remember. Or, perhaps, the Admiral would give him a chance to explain why he made the omission in the list.
After long deliberation, the fourth option appeared favorable. It offered him the best chance of survival.
As soon as he had made the decision and made a commitment to follow it, a wave of relief swept over him. Exhausted, he went to bed and slept well.
When he entered the office on Monday, the Admiral was there, smoking a cigarette. He glared at Litchfield but said nothing. Six weeks passed, and still the Admiral did nothing to bring up the topic. Then-the Admiral was sent back to Tokyo.
The Success Principle
Make a decision and act on it. It could even save your life.
The Principle At Work
Galen Litchfield’s experience illustrates the importance of arriving at a decision. He was caught in a no-win situation. Any decision could have been the wrong one. There was no way for him to resolve this dilemma. However, not making a decision is also a decision. It is choosing to act impulsively, and not rationally. There are also consequences to this.
Saleem Rana got his masters in psychotherapy. Discover how to create a remarkable life
Copyright 2005 Saleem Rana.