Courage is quiet. It is unassuming in its moment.
Big Red Car here in the ATX where it is that time of the year when it’s 65F at dawn and this afternoon it will be in the low 90s. Those first warm days are a blessing, but it’s almost June and it’s almost summer, so bring it, Mother Nature. Hit me with your best shot!
Today, we talk about courage. The dictionary would have you believe that courage is the ability to face danger or difficulty without fear; or, the ability to act in accordance with one’s beliefs or convictions in spite of criticism.
Not buying it, y’all. Courage is the ability to act despite the fact you are wracked with fear. It does not vanquish fear. It acts in spite of fear.
The Boss had a platoon sergeant who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor in Vietnam.
He was a bantam rooster Puerto Rican who would burst into Spanish whenever he became excited. He was an excitable type, so this happened regularly. The troops used to say, “Tell the lieutenant, Sergeant CP is speaking Spanish again. Nobody can understand him.”
He won the DSC (second only to the Medal of Honor) when his chopper was the first one in on a battalion size airmobile insertion and the LZ was hotter than Hell. The battalion commander scrubbed the attack, leaving Sergeant CP on the ground with six others. They were combat engineers, so they had chain saws to be used to hack out a helicopter pad and an improvised landing strip.
Of the seven who landed only Sergeant CP made it out alive. In the telling of the story, he threw a running chain saw at the NVA before hiking home over four days. There were no witnesses.
That was a problem as there was nobody to write up his recommendation for what should have been a MOH. Sergeant CP was sanguine about it, “Nobody going to give the fucking medal of honor to a Puerto Rican who don’t speak good English, Lieutenant.”
The Boss agreed with him.
On payday, when the combat engineers wore their greens with their blood red scarves, SFC (Sergeant First Class, E-7) CP would have that DSC at the top of his ribbons and The Boss would side eye it and look at his platoon sergeant and think about courage.
On long nights out in the field up by the DMZ in Korea, The Boss and his platoon sergeant used to talk about soldiering. It was like a seminar on the craft.
Sergeant CP was Old School. He used to speak in the third person. He’d say, “What the lieutenant want the platoon to do today, sir?”
When The Boss would tell him something and he didn’t think it was a good idea, he’d say, “OK, Lieutenant. Never heard anything like that before, but the lieutenant is the lieutenant so Sergeant CP and the men we do it. Sounds like crazy shit to me, but the lieutenant is the lieutenant.”
Sergeant CP schooled The Boss — as did two other platoon sergeants — and put a coat of paint on him covering up the greenness of being a know-nothing lieutenant.
[Thank you, Sergeant CP, wherever you are. You made a soldier out of a green shavetail. Thank you.]
A CEO has the same challenge. She has to act when she doesn’t want to act and she is wracked by fear. The NVA is not going to kill her and she doesn’t have to throw a chainsaw at them to gain her freedom of action, but she has to act or the situation will spin out of control.
The other day we talked about all the things that happen to CEOs as they’re learning their trade. You cannot escape them and when they come, they require a bit of courage to overcome them.
A CEO has to continue to operate when she is scared. It is called courage. Every person has it within themselves, if they know where to look. [Pro tip: Look for it within you and if you can’t find it, call me, the Big Red Car. I’ll show you where it it.]
The Quiet Courage of Living
The world is filled to overflowing with courageous people. There is no more courageous person than the single mom who gets up each morning and goes to work so she can feed her family and educate her kids.
In the face of an inhospitable world, she gets up, goes to work, and she doesn’t get the Distinguished Service Cross. You may argue she gets something better — the love of her children and the respect of her family.
Today, be courageous in whatever you do. If you get real excited, start speaking in tongues. Speak Spanish.
Hats off to all the courageous people who every day face down their fears and continue to operate. Salute!