Courage — CEO Shoptalk

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.

Military courage

The Boss had a platoon sergeant who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor in Vietnam.

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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.]

CEO courage

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.

CEOs — Doing Tough Things Shoptalk

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!

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car and I need a paint job. Come on, Boss, how about a nice courageous paint job for your Big Red Car. Be good to yourself.cropped-LTFD-illust_300.png




2 thoughts on “Courage — CEO Shoptalk

  1. I don’t know much about courage. E.g., I’ve never been shot at or even heard a shot fired in anger.

    But I’ve had a lot of people attack me. With some of those attacks, I’ve been in fights, sometimes with great harm to me.

    Eventually on serious threats I settled on a partition of the cases into two situations:

    (1) Immediate. Here I’m in the middle of the threat; bad things are happening to me or might; e.g., my attackers at least are trying to have their way with me. In this situation, I realize that I might lose, maybe indeed will be lucky to get out whole. So, moment by moment, I just notice if I’m still okay or not. If I’m still okay, then so far the attackers have failed. Okay. No big fears or courage required.

    (2) Future. Here it appears that I will be attacked, but the attack hasn’t happened yet. Here I need courage because I’m not yet actually in the middle of the threat and moment by moment don’t know if the coming attacks will be successful or not.

    E.g., when I was 15 and had a good bicycle but no driver’s license, early one Friday evening my girl invited me to see her at her cousin’s house about 1/3rd of the way across town. So, starting about an hour after dark, I got on my bicycle and road west, north, and west again. On the second west leg, I was on a major street, four lanes. The traffic was fast and heavy. There was no place on the street for a bicycle. So, I tried the sidewalk: There were many drives cutting the sidewalk and the city had built unusually high curbs. On my bicycle usually I could jump a curb, but with those high curbs the front sprocket of my bicycle hit the curbs. So, on the sidewalk I would have had to have walked my bicycle and would have been late. I didn’t want to be late to see my girl.

    So, I rode in the street, on the right, close to the curb. Cars were going by me on the left 18 inches away. I could easily have been knocked off my bicycle and run over several times and killed. I was at risk of dying, and, since I’d had a lot of experience on my bicycle, knew it. But, again, I didn’t want to be late to get to my girl. Since moment my moment I was still okay, I kept riding. I never got hit or hurt and was not late to my girl. But I’d had about 25% chance of serious injury or death.

    Since I was moment by moment in the middle of the threat and still okay, I didn’t need courage. But if you’d told me that the next day I would have to do that bicycle ride again, then I would have needed courage!

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