“Courage can be misunderstood. It is more than the ability to overcome the jitters, to quell fear, to conquer the desire to run. It is the ability to know what is, or is not, to be feared. An infantryman charging a bunker is not hampered by the fear that he may be struck down a few paces from his fighting hole. A pilot is not afraid of losing all hydraulic power in his aircraft. They are prepared for those outcomes. A Marine in battle fears disgracing himself by running. He fears not losing his life, but losing his honor. He may not be able to preserve his life, but he can always preserve his honor. That much is within his power… To fear disgrace but not death, to fear not duty but dereliction from duty — this is courage. The truly courageous do not live in anxiety from morning to night. They are calm because they know who they are.
We overcome our natural fear and fight for three chief reasons: First, we are well-trained and well-led. Second, we have convictions that will sustain us to the last sacrifice. Third, we fight for one another…
There is another kind of physical courage — a quiet courage that affects those all around. It is the kind of calm, physical courage that a leader has when all around is chaos and noise…
Many times, decisions will have to be made in the rain, under the partial protection of a poncho, in the drizzle of an uncertain dawn, and without all the facts. At times like that, it will not always be possible to identify all the components of the problem, and use a lengthy and logical problem-solving process to reach a decision. In combat, the decision often must be immediate, and it might have to be instinctive.”
Pulled from the section “Individual Courage” in chapter two of the Marine Corps handbook Leading Marines.
They are calm because they know who they are. I’ve recently gotten into Jocko Willink’s podcast, after hearing his interviews with Tim Ferriss and Sam Harris. Jocko is a former SEAL who led the reconquest of Ramadi and a nationally ranked jiu jitsu player. His podcast focuses on applying military leadership strategy to business and personal decision-making, and he discusses Leading Marines in his Podcast #8.
Image credit: BlackFive.