Everyone knows that the two world wars were initiated by Germany. There have been many articles discussing the disasters and losses this brought to the world. But how did Germany rise up again so rapidly after experiencing two major defeats?
In the winter of 1944, the Allied forces completed their encirclement of Germany, and it was clear that the fascist Third Empire was collapsing. The entire country was shrouded in a doomsday atmosphere. The economy had collapsed, materials were scarce, and the lives of the people were in serious trouble.
For ordinary civilians, just the shortage of food was already a matter of life and death. To make matters worse, because Germany is located in central Europe, the winter is very cold, and if there is not enough fuel in the house, it will not be possible to survive.
Under these circumstances, local governments had to allow ordinary people to go up the mountains to cut trees. How did the Germans cut trees on the eve of the collapse of the Empire?
When their lives were threatened, people did not commit robbery, but let the forestry staff search first in a certain area and mark the old, weak, and sick trees. They warned the people that cutting an unmarked tree would result in punishment.
Indeed, in the eyes of some people, such a rule is simply a joke: The country was about to fall apart, and who would impose the punishment? At that time, Hitler transferred almost all the German civil servants to the front line. There were no policemen or judges. The whole country was in a potential state of anarchy.
What is incredible is that until the end of the Second World War, there was no violation of that rule in the country. Every German faithfully implemented this rule without any real binding force.
The above is a story told by the famous scholar Ji Xianlin in his memoirs, Ten Years in Germany. At that time, he studied in Germany and witnessed this phenomenon, and he lamented the matter more than 50 years later. He also said that the Germans “lived in the anarchy, but there was no anarchy.”
What kind of power is it that makes the Germans still show self-discipline beyond the imagination of ordinary people in such an extremely miserable situation? There is only one answer — their sober character. Because of the Germans’ sober character, Germany experienced a miraculously rapid rise after two devastating world wars in the middle of the last century.
Anyone familiar with the diesel engine industry will be familiar with this story. If a diesel engine was made in China, its noise would be so loud that one could hear it several miles away and oil stains would appear for several dozen yards around the engine. In contrast, a diesel engine made by the Germans can be placed in the middle of an office, on the carpet, and it would not disturb anyone in the next room.
In 1984, Wuhan Diesel Engine Factory hired retired German entrepreneur Gerlich as their director. At the first meeting with the heads of the relevant departments of the city after he took office, Gerlich got straight to the point and said: “If quality is the life of a product, then cleanliness is the key to the quality and longevity of the cylinder.”
In front of the officials, Gerlich grabbed a large amount of iron powder from the cylinder and placed it on the conference table, and said with a serious face: “This cylinder is a random sample taken before the meeting. Please take a look at what I have found inside. In Germany, the cylinder impurities can’t be higher than 50 mg, and the data I know of is that the average impurity of the cylinders produced by your factory is about 5,000 mg. Imagine being able to grab so much iron powder from your cylinder. How could the impurities not exceed the standard? I don’t think this is a problem of the process technology, but a matter of responsibility for producers and managers, and it is the result of extremely callous work.”
Gerlich’s remarks made the management sitting in the conference room uneasy and extremely embarrassed. Two years later, the cylinder impurity produced by Wuhan Diesel Engine Factory had dropped to an average of about 1,000 mg.
Gerlich stayed for two years and went back to Germany. He returned to China several times and visited Wuhan Diesel Engine Factory every time. In the factory, he sometimes checked the cylinders. When he found iron powder in a cylinder, he still screamed angrily at the people around him: “How can you not be serious about this?” He forgot that he was no longer the director.
If a powerful Germany is a frightening nation, soberness of character is a frightening force. The force is so great that it can make a country strong and also make a person invincible. Soberness is a habit. Once the word “soberness” goes deep into your bones and melts into your blood, you will also have a power that makes everyone afraid, including yourself.
It would be good to learn from the Germans and conscientiously implement this character trait into our behaviors, so we, too, can have some breakthroughs.
Translated by Yi Ming