Within Arms Reach

Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.

The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arms reach.

This realization changed everything. That's the wife and mother and friend that I now strive to be. I want our home to be a place where we can be our bravest selves are most fearful selves. Where we practice difficult conversations and share our shaming moments from school and work. I want to look at Steve and my kids and say, “I'm with you I'm in the arena. And when we fail, we’ll fail together, while daring greatly.”

We simply can't learn to be more vulnerable and courageous on our own. Sometimes our first and greatest dare is asking for support.

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

How would you answer Peter's question?

Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” This question sounds easy because it’s straightforward. Actually, it’s very hard to answer. It’s intellectually difficult because the knowledge that everyone is taught in school is by definition agreed upon. And it’s psychologically difficult because anyone trying to answer must say something she knows to be unpopular. Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.

Most commonly, I hear answers like the following:

“Our educational system is broken and urgently needs to be fixed.”

“America is exceptional.”

“There is no God.”

Those are bad answers. The first and the second statements might be true, but many people already agree with them. The third statement simply takes one side in a familiar debate. A good answer takes the following form: “Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x.”

Peter Thiel

Zero to One Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Resilient in the face of trauma

For at least a century, psychologists have assumed that terrible events—such as having a loved one die or becoming the victim of a violent crime—must have a powerful, devastating, and enduring impact on those who experience them. This assumption has been so deeply embedded in our conventional wisdom that people who don’t have dire reactions to events such as those are sometimes diagnosed as having a pathological condition known as “absent grief.” But recent research suggests that the conventional wisdom is wrong that the absence of grief is quite normal, and that rather than being the fragile flowers that a century of psychologists have made us out to be, most people are surprisingly resilient in the face of trauma. The loss of a parent or spouse is usually sad and often tragic, and it would be perverse to suggest otherwise.

But as one group of researchers noted, “Resilience is often the most commonly observed outcome trajectory following exposure to a potentially traumatic event.” Instead, studies of those who survive major traumas suggest that the vast majority do quite well, and that a significant portion claim that their lives were enhanced by the experience

Why do most of us shake our heads in disbelief when an athlete who has been through several grueling years of chemotherapy tells us that “I wouldn’t change anything,” or when a musician who has become permanently disabled says, “If I had it to do all over again, I would want it to happen the same way,” or when quadriplegics and paraplegics tell us that they are pretty much as happy as everyone else? The claim made by people who have experienced events such as these seem frankly outlandish to those of us who are merely imagining those events—and yet, who are we to argue with the folks who’ve actually been there?

The fact is that negative events do affect us, but they generally don’t affect us as much or for as long as we expect them to.

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling into Happiness

Courage

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement, 2005

Self-Renewal and Motivation

The self-renewing man is highly motivated and respects the sources of his own energy and motivation. He has the priceless quality of enthusiasm. He knows how important it is to believe in what he is doing.

He knows how important it is to pursue the things about which he has a deep conviction. Enthusiasm for the task to be accomplished lifts him out of the ruts of habit and customary procedure. Drive and conviction give him the courage to risk failure. (One of the reasons mature persons stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.) And not only does he respond to challenge, but he also sees the challenge where others fail to see it..

John Gardner

the brave doctor

Shortly after Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, a doctor in William E. Wallner's parish was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. The doctor, a Jewish convert to Christianity, encouraged his fellow prisoners "to die bravely, with faith in their hearts." As a result, he became a target of Gestapo officers.

Although struck with an iron rod until one of his arms had to be amputated, the doctor would not be quieted. Finally, as DeMille's autobiography recounts, "one Gestapo officer beat the doctor's head against a stone wall until blood was streaming down his face." Holding a mirror before the doctor, the Gestapo officer sneered: "Take a look at yourself. Now you look like your Jewish Christ."

Lifting his remaining hand up, the doctor exclaimed, "Lord, never in my life have I received such honor—to resemble You." Those would be his last words on Earth.

Distraught by the doctor's proclamation, the Gestapo officer sought out Wallner that night. "Could Pastor Wallner help him, free him from the terrible burden of his guilt?"

After praying with him, Wallner advised, "Perhaps God let you kill that good man to bring you to the foot of the Cross, where you can help others." The Gestapo officer returned to the concentration camp. And through the aid of Wallner and the Czech underground, he worked to free many Jews over the years that followed.

John Murray writing in the Wall Street Journal

Have Courage!

Happiness is not enough to insure a fulfilling life. It is imperative to have courage, not merely happiness. To be fulfilling, happiness must derive from the courage that leads one to face stressful circumstances and to do the necessary hard work of transforming them from potential disasters into growth opportunities.

One particularly relevant study by my research team and me showed that hardiness was more effective than optimism (happiness) in helping people cope with stresses by growing through them, rather than stagnating. This showed how happiness, devoid of courage, can be laced with naive complacency.

Salvatore R. Maddi