Can you be brave? That is the question. I am a massive fan of Ryan Holiday and I am a fan of the stoic approach to life. I think stoicism is the operating system of every entrepreneur or CEO. I loved reading “Courage Is Calling: Fortune Favours the Brave”. The book makes things very simple.
Striving for excellence
Have a moral backbone. Be physically and mentally strong. Have courage. Achieve mastery. A book about a word we do not use enough “virtue”. Virtue is something we do. It’s something we choose. Living life to the fullest. Life as a heroic deed. Not doing what is safe, but doing what needs to be done. If not you, then who?
Courage is risk. It is sacrifice, commitment, perseverance, truth and determination. Courage is a sort of endurance of the soul. The root word of “courage” means “heart.” There comes in their lifetime a special moment when you are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to you and fitted to your talents. Courage forces us to ask, “If not now, when?” and “If not me, then who?” Achieving your finest hour.
Do not be afraid
There is nothing worth doing that is not scary. The important thing is not to be afraid. Do you know what the most repeated phrase in the Bible is? It’s “Be not afraid.” Be scared. You can’t help that, but don’t be afraid. To give in to fear is to deny the talents and skills that got you where you are in the first place. Do not deprive yourself of the agency you were given at birth.
The book uses examples from people such as Muhammad Ali, DeGaulle, Gandhi, Charles Lindbergh, Seneca, Jocko Willink, Jeff Bezos, Malala Yousafzai, Steve Jobs, Darwin, Churchill, Thích Quảng Đức’s, Michael Jordan, Alexey Navalny, Martin Luther King Jr., Shackleton and Marcus Aurelius. Who are your heroes? They will tell a lot about you.
The words to reflect on
The book shares a wide range of lessons. Read one page a day. Reflect on words we do not think about enough, valour, pride, duty, love, calling, devotion, discipline, cause, backbone, character, altruism, selflessness, cojones, destiny, agency.
Here are a few lessons
There are many more:
- If courage is never required in your life, you’re living a boring life.
- Courage is the management of and the triumph over fear.
- When we follow our destiny and seize what is meant to be ours, we are never alone.
- Don’t worry about whether things will be hard. They will be. Our bruises and scars become armour. Our struggles become experience. They make us better.
- Scholars remind us that the opposite of andreia—the ancient Greek word for “courage”—is not cowardice. It’s melancholia.
- Can’t lose if you don’t choose? Of course, you can. You lose the moment. You lose the momentum. You lose your ability to look at yourself in the mirror.
- The opposite of courage is not, as some argue, being afraid. It’s apathy. It’s disenchantment. It’s despair. It’s throwing up your hands and saying, “What’s the point anyway?” You will also be nothing. A protected, self-justifying nothing.
- We don’t want to offend. We don’t want trouble. We don’t want to lose our access. Or our power. Or our pension. Or our privileges. So we lie. Or we compromise. Or worse, we cower.
- The scariest thing to be is yourself. Be original. Be yourself. To be anything else is to be a coward.
- The world should be divided not into good and bad people but into cowards and non-cowards.
- So while the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, as George Bernard Shaw said, progress—hope—depends on the courage of the unreasonable man. The well-behaved rarely make history. They’re going to call you crazy—because courage is crazy.
- Whatever you’re not changing, you’re choosing.
- This is the rule: You decided to go. Now you have to own what happens. No excuses. No exceptions. And the buck stops with you. Always.
- It has been said that a Stoic is someone who says “Fuck you” to fate. That’s right. You’re going to have to beat me first. You can kill me, but you aren’t going to whip me. Raw defiance. It’s an underrated thing. 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.
- Your duty is to do the right thing—right now. The thing about duty is that we have a choice not to do it, of course, but at the same time, we know that really, there is no choice. Or rather, there is only one choice.
- Life is meaningless except for its impact on other lives. The athlete who makes their team better? An athlete who makes the team better off the court too? The leader who gets more out of the people around them?
- A leader must have real skin in the game. 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.
- 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.
- They can take a lot away from you, but as long as you’re alive, they can’t make you quit.
- It’s from the soul that the hero draws their real power. It’s not about who has a bigger army, the better weapons, who has the stronger case or, the bigger budget.
- The one who won’t ever quit will be the winner, if not now, then later, if not in this life, then in the next.
- Words don’t matter. Deeds do.
- Character is fate.
Ryan Holiday talks about the “existential vacuum” that has fallen over Europe and the Western Hemisphere. This book might be the beginning of an antidote. To step away from learned helplessness. To take control.
The question Ryan Holiday asks
Can you be brave? Who and what will you be brave for? The world wants to know.