Fortune Favors the Brave. The Four Virtues. The choice between vice and virtue, the easy way and the hard way, the well-trod path and the road less traveled is a choice we all face. Virtue is comprised of four key components: courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom. Courage = bravery, fortitude, honor, sacrifice. Temperance= self-control, moderation, composure, balance. Justice = fairness, service, fellowship, goodness, kindness. Wisdom = knowledge, education, truth, self-reflection, peace. Doing the right thing almost always takes courage, just as discipline is impossible without the wisdom to know what is worth choosing. Virtue is something we do. It’s something we choose. It’s a daily challenge, one we face not once but constantly, repeatedly. Introduction. There is no deed in this life so impossible that you cannot do it. Courage is renewable. We’re afraid. We’d rather stick with what’s safe. The greatest moments in human history - landing on the moon, civil rights, the art of the renaissance - all share the bravery of ordinary men and women. If not me, then who? There is only one kind of courage. The kind where you put your ass on the line. “To each, there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” - Winston Churchill. We are called to do something for someone other than ourselves. Part 1: Fear. It’s impossible to beat an enemy you do not understand. We must study fear, get familiar with it, grapple with its causes and symptoms. People put their own fears and limitations on us. What we are to do in this life comes from somewhere beyond us; it’s bigger than us. We are each called to be something. We are selected. We are chosen… but will he accept this? Or will we run away? There is nothing worth doing that is not scary. The Important Thing is to Not Be Afraid. “Be scared. You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid.” - William Faulkner. We Defeat Fear with Logic. Break it down. Really look at the facts. Investigate. Only then can we see. “Not what your enemy sees and hopes that you will, but what’s really there.” - Marcus Aurelius. This Is the Enemy. Don’t worry about whether things will be hard. Because they will be. Instead, focus on the fact that these things will help you. “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, it’s own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.“ - Malcolm X. Focus on What’s in Front of You. All the energy we spend fearing that we’ll make it worse is energy not spent making it better. Never Question Another Man’s Courage. It’s very easy to judge, it’s very hard to know. Agency is an Effective Truth. Fear determines what is and isn’t possible. If you think something is too scary, it’s too scary for you. If you don’t think you have any power… you don’t. If you aren’t the captain of your fate… then fate is the captain of you. “Courage is in shorter supply than genius.” - Peter Thiel. We are Afraid to Believe. Courage is honest commitment to noble ideals. All Growth is a Leap. There is no progress without risk. Fear what happens if you don’t act. Fear what they’ll think of you down the road, for having dared so little. Think of what you’re leaving on the table. Put yourself in a position that demands you leap. You Can’t Put Your Safety First. Most people die in bed. Getting up and getting active is much safer. All certainty is uncertain. You’re not safe. You never will be. No one is. Fear is Showing You Something. Our fears point us in the direction of the right thing to do. If it wasn’t scary everyone would do it. The Scariest Thing To Be Is Yourself. Be original. Be yourself. To be anything else is to be a coward. Don’t let the opinion of cowards influencer what you think or do. Life Happens in Public. Get Used to It. Our fear of what other people think, of embarrassment or awkwardness, is not the same fear that holds a man back from running into battle, but it is a limitation, a deficiency of courage that deprived us of our destiny all the same. There’s almost no accomplishment that is possible without calling some attention on yourself. To gamble on yourself is to risk failure. To do it in public is to risk humiliation. You learn to stop thinking about what they think. You’ll never do original work if you can’t. You have to be willing not only to step away from the heard but get up in front of them and say what you truly think of feel. We don’t get to succeed privately. It’s ironic that for all of our selfish cares about ourselves, we seem to value other peoples opinions about us more than our own. “If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid.” - Epictetus. Who might we be if we didn't care about blushing? What could we accomplish if we didn't mind the spotlight? If we were tough enough to put on the tights? If you were willing not only to fail but to do so in front of others? Which Tradition Will You Choose? When we are afraid, we can look up at those who came before us. We can visit the monuments they erected. We can read the documents they wrote. Because this is our tradition. The people who signed the Declaration of Independence weren’t doing it for glory, they were risking their lives if it didn’t work. You Can’t Be Afraid to Ask. “Don’t be afraid to need help. Like a solider storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?” - Marcus Aurelius. You’re speaking up not for pity or attention but so the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else. You’re not looking to get an unfair advantage. You’re taking advantage of the opportunities and the protections that we’re designed for precisely the situation you’re in. When the student asks a question, what happens, they learn something they didn’t know. When the friend reveals a vulnerability to another, what happens? The friendship gets stronger when the employee admits the workload is too much, what happens? A hire is made and the company gets more efficient. When somebody has the courage to speak about something shameful that was don’t to them? Society is propelled into action. Someone can help them stop it. Sometimes just the ask itself is a breakthrough. We are as sick as our secrets. We are at the mercy of fears we dare not articulate, paralyzed by assumptions we refuse to put to the test. You won’t get what you’re afraid to admit you need. What we want in life, what the world needs—all of it is on the other side of fear. Part 2: Courage. Courage is the management of and the triumph over fear. The Call We Answer. No one who acts with courage is ever alone. When we follow our destiny, when we seize what is meant to be ours, we are never alone. We must know that if we fight hard and long enough, we will find everyone is with us. If Not You, Then Who? Each of us has our own skills, our own set of experiences and insights. We each receive our call. If we don’t answer it, then we restrict the world of something. The belief that an individual can make a difference is the first step. The next is understanding that you can be that person. Preparation makes you Brave. What we are familiar with, we can manage. Danger can be mitigated by experience and by good training. Repetition leads to confidence. Confidence leads to courage. Just Start Somewhere. Just Do Something. We can just not be afraid to be ourselves. We have to insist on it. Make It a Habit. No athlete just expects to hit the game-winning shot. They practice it thousands of times. Do one thing each day that scares you. There is no one more miserable than the person who had made cop-outs and cowardice their go-to decision. Seize the Offensive. A philosophy of offense. Of initiative. Intimidate the enemy rather than being intimidated. Whatever it is, whatever you’re doing, you must pursue it aggressively. When you operate out of fear, when you’re on your heels, you have no shot. Stand Your Ground. Each of us has more power than we know. By demanding our rights were not only being brave, we are helping everyone who comes after us. Courage Is Contagious. Any man who controls himself contributes to the control of others. You don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to keep yourself in check. You have to do your job in the moment, let your training guide you. You do what’s right, what is immediately in front of you, bravely, calmly, clearly. You Have to Own It. This is the rule: you decided to go. Now you have to own what happens. No excuses. No exceptions. “The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” - Joan Didion. You Can Always Resist. Courage says, over my dead body. Courage says, not if I can help it. Courage says, I’m doing things my way, according to my own code, no matter what you say. You have agency. You have strength. You can make them regret ever tangling with you. Only a loser stops battling their opponent before the match is over. Fight for every yard. Fight for you. No one can make a person do wrong. We hold that power. “If they can force you, then you’ve forgotten how to die.” - Seneca. Fortune Favors the Bold. Fortune favors the bold. Fortune favors the brave. It favors the big plans. Favors the risk-taking. The decision to lead the charge. The decision to break links. The decision to try something new. The decision to accept the crazy challenge. To ask them to marry you, to take that trip, to raise your hand, to throw that long ball because with the game on the line you’re no longer worried about interceptions. While the odds are often against these choices, know that the momentum of history is secretly with you. The crowd is with you, ready to cheer when you win. The more you put yourself out there, the more luck seems to come your way. It’s when you’re making up for earlier deficiencies that you have to gamble everything. Better to consistently make good bets every day. Calculated instead of careless. Incremental instead of incredibly dangerous. Do the hard thing now. Be steady and courageous today, in everything that counts. You’re not as alone as you think. Boldly proceed. The Courage to Commit. Only the brave believe, especially when everyone is full of doubt. Love Thy Neighbor. Any attempt at action is better than inaction. An attempt can go wrong, but inaction inevitably results in failure. Agency Is Taken, Not Given. You have to believe you can make a difference. You have to try to make one. Do what you want, what you feel is necessary, what you feel makes the world a freer, safer place. When Violence Is the Answer. “When there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.” - Gandhi. Do Your Job. The history of procrastination show us: the bill comes eventually, with interest attached. You Can Beat the Odds. There is no courage without bad odds, without a willingness to risk losing. You are not average. You never have been. You are one of one. Part 3: The Heroic. There is no selflessness without sacrifice. Jumping on a grenade only matters if you jump on it to accomplish something, to save someone. The difference between raw courage and the heroic lies in the who. Who was it good for? Was it truly selfless? Was it for the greater good? “Every prophet has to come from civilization, but every prophet has to go into the wilderness. He must have a strong impression of a complex society and he must serve periods of isolation and meditation. This is the process by which psychic dynamite is made.” - Winston Churchill. “A life is meaningless except for its impact on other lives.” - Jackie Robinson. “Happy is the man who can make others better, not merely when he is in their company, but even when he is in their thoughts.” - Seneca. Our duty was never to be the best ourselves, but to help others realize their best. If we hesitate at the moment of crisis, we’ll accomplish nothing and save no one. “True good fortune is what you make for yourself. Good fortune: good character, good intentions, and good actions.” - Marcus Aurelius. You must care about the people in your care. You must put them first. You must show them with your actions. Call them to something higher. The leader risks themselves for us. They step to the front. Self-presentation is worth more than freedom. “We should cherish the body with the greatest care” - Seneca. Taking the hit for someone, something else. That’s what heroes do. A coward thinks of themselves. “Courage is about standing up for yourself and for others.” - Maya Angelou. It takes courage to depart from the conventional path; it’s heroic when you do it for selfless reasons. “You can commit injustice by doing nothing.” - Marcus Aurelius. If we don’t do the right thing, who will? And if somebody doesn’t do it, how many will suffer? The craziest, bravest thing you can do in this damned world of ours is to keep hoping. If we give up, we lose. We carry the fire, at risk of being burned. We are of good cheer, despite the horror and the despair. We keep our hearts open, after we’ve had it broken. We proceed, ignoring the horrendous odds. Leaders are dealers in hope. Nobody wants to live in a world without a tomorrow, without a reason to continue, without some dot on the horizon they’re aiming at. Courage does not mean being unbreakable, it means getting back up when you’ve been broken. Words don’t matter. Deeds do. We have a choice. We choose between cowardice and courage, virtue and vice.