I finished this book in December 2021. I recommend this book 10/10.
This is the 6th. book I've read by Ryan Holiday—another way for me to say that I'm a fan. What excites me is that Courage is calling is the 1st. of a 4 book series. If you have never heard of Ryan or Stoic Philosophy, you might just have stumbled over a life-changing moment.
I recommend that you read Ryan's bestseller, Obstacle Is the Way, as your intro into Stoicism. The Obstacle Is the Way has been read by high-performing athletes from the NFL to investors in Silicon Valley. After that, I recommend that you come back to this series. Read my notes from the book below, and tell me that you are not inspired! Get your copy of the book here.
My notes and thoughts:
"He has won without glory who has won without peril." he wrote. "Mucius was tested by fire, Fabricius by poverty, Rutilius by exile, Regulus by torture, Socrates by poison, Cato by death. One cannot find a great exemplar except in misfortune." Don't worry about whether things will be hard. Because they will be. Instead, focus on the fact that these things will help you. This is why you needn't fear them. Our bruises and scars become armor. Our struggles become an experience. They make us better. They prepare us for this moment, just as this moment will prepare us for one that lies ahead. They are the flavoring that makes victory taste so sweet. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If everyone did it, how valuable would it be?
The brave don't despair. They believe. They are not cynical; they care. They think there is stuff worth dying for—that good and evil exist. They know that life has problems but would rather be part of the solution than a bystander.
"At the top," Acheson would observe, "there are no easy choices. All are between evils, the consequence of which are hard to judge."
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.
It's worth remembering that most people die in bed. Getting up and getting active is much safer!
Training is not just something that athletes and soldiers do. It is the key to overcoming fear in any and all situations. What we do not expect, what we have not practiced, has an advantage over us. What we have prepared for, what we have anticipated, we will be able to answer. As Epictetus says, the foal when we experience adversity is to be able to say, "This is what I've trained for, for this is my discipline."
The best time to have tackled a hard problem was a long time ago; the second-best time is now.
Whatever it is, whatever you're doing, you must pursue it aggressively. When you operate out of fear, when you're on our heels, you have no shot. It's simply not possible to lead that way. To succeed, you must take the offensive. Even when you're being cautious, it must come with the assumption of constant advance, and insistent move toward victory always. You have to demand control of the tempo. You have to set the tempo—in battle, in the boardroom, in matters both big and small. You want them to fear what you are going to do, not the other way around.
The architect Daniel Burnham is said to have advised his students to make no little plans. He was telling them to think big. To tackle big problems. Not to get stuck on the onesie-twosies of life, but to try to reach. To do something so new and different, that is scared them.
"It is my experience that bold decisions give the best promise of success," General Erwin Rommel would write in one of his boldness and military gamble. A bold operation is one in which success is not a certainty but which in case of failure leaves one may arise. A gamble, on the other hand, is an operation which can lead either to victory or to the complete destruction of one's force. Situations can arise where even a gamble may be justified as, for instance, when in the normal course of events, therefore, is pointless and the only chance lies in an operation of great risk."
Do the hard things now. Be steady and courageous today in everything that counts. You'll have to trust that it's not a risky as you think. That you are not as alone as you think. There is something behind you on this, even if it doesn't feel that way. Fortune is here. Fate is smiling upon you. But she tires quickly. She will resent you if you make her wait. Better risk now than gamble later. In either case, boldly proceed.
"Be not afraid of greatness," Said Shakespeare. Let it enter your blood and spirit. Fight for it.
The pivotal moment for Florence Nightingale was the realization that she was never going to be given what she knew she needed. She discovered as she wrote in her journal, that she'd need to take it. She had to demand the life she wanted.
Each one of us had within our hands the power to end our own captivity. Each one of us has the means to assert our agency. It begins with a choice, but it is ensured by action.
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. It was the moment when Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail that his followers saw he was more than just a preacher. He was with them. He risked his life for them. He was one of them. We can't be afraid, or we won't be able to do what needs to be done. But also, by this fearlessness—willingness to represent the cause, in the flesh, against all dangers—we show everyone else that they'll be okay as well. The leader risks themselves for us. The step to the front. They make their courage contagious.
Remember: 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. And if we want that, we're going to have to make it. For them and for ourselves, heroically.
Will you find a way to become stronger at the broken place? Or will you so cling to your old ways that you will be shattered? A hero gets back up. They heal. They grow for themselves and others.