Pursue What Matters
Episode 156: Book Review – Courage is Calling
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you want to be more courageous? Do you want to have less fear in your life? Well join me as I talk about this great new book courage is calling. Do you hear it?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:12
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So I’m so excited to talk with you about a new book. This month, every month I share a book with you and I’ve really been looking forward to this book. It’s new, it just came out a couple of months ago, and it is called Courage is Calling: Fortune Favors the Brave, it’s by Ryan Holiday. So if you know much about Ryan Holiday, He is an author. He writes a lot on the stoic virtues. And I really have found a lot of insight and perspective in his writing. He also has a website, the daily stoic, where he shares, he shares information every day about stoicism and how we can bring some of these virtues into our modern day world.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:32
So every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas. So clarity, so having purpose and knowing what matters. And we’re really going to be focusing on that today. Because when it comes to courage, when it comes to fear, knowing why you would make a choice, why you would be an agent in your life and choose courage is all about connecting to purpose and meaning. We also talk about curiosity. And that’s building self awareness. So understanding your own fear and how that might show up for you. And then the last area is leading and building a community. And one of the things that he teaches us in this book is that courage is contagious. And so when we can be courageous, we set a powerful example for others. And, you know, there are a million ways that we can be courageous in our daily lives, right? Like, it doesn’t have to be a bold, brave courage on the battle front. It can be, you know, standing up for someone, it could be refusing to participate in a conversation, it could be advocating for specific needs. And so recognizing that courage is always calling.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:49
And so let’s learn a little bit about Ryan Holiday and some of his work. So he’s worked with a lot of individuals, professional athletes, CEOs, politicians, and entrepreneurs, and really has brought stoicism to millions of readers. And so this book courage is calling is the first in a new series on the cardinal virtues of ancient philosophy. And so this is the first book in that in that new series, and I think it’s really great. So he calls courage, the most foundational virtue of all right, and if we think about the four cardinal virtues, courage is Israeli first because you need courage to be able to enact and utilize the other virtues. And so some of his other books include the obstacle is the way it’s a really such a great book, The Ego is the Enemy. The Boy Who Would Be King, the daily stoic, and stillness is the key. So stillness is the key is all about mindfulness. And so he’s been very successful. He does really well with this perspective. And so let’s hear a little bit more about this book. So from from the publisher, right, almost every religion spiritual practice, philosophy and person grapples with fear, the most repeated phrase in the Bible is Be not afraid. Isn’t that interesting?
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:19
So the ancient Greeks spoke of Phobos. So this is all from Ryan Holiday, spoke of Phobos panic and terror. It is natural to feel fear, the Stoics believed, but it cannot rule you courage that is the ability to rise above fear to do what’s right to do what’s needed to do what is true. So I really liked that. That description of courage, it’s the ability to rise above fear, to do what’s right to do what’s needed to do what’s true. And so it rests at the heart of the works at works of Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, CS Lewis, alongside temperance, justice and wisdom, so but those are the other cardinal virtues. And so with this book, Ryan Holiday breaks down the elements of fear and expression of cowardice, the elements of courage and expression of bravery. And lastly, the elements of heroism and expression of Valor, through engaging stories about historic and contemporary leaders. He really shows us how to conquer fear and practice courage in your daily life. And so that’s so what I would say about this book is, it can be one of those inspirational books that you just pick up and read, you know, the small chapter, they’re pretty, pretty short. And if it’s like, okay, I really want to be cultivating more courage in my life. I’m gonna do some, you know, some daily reading from this book, that could be a really nice way to use it. And he shares a lot of really intriguing stories that help to make his point. And so let’s hear what others have to say about the book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:00
So this is from General Jim Mattis, US Marines, retired and 26. US Secretary of Defense. So he said, worthy for anyone trying to develop their own code. This is a superb handbook for crafting a purposeful life, masterfully composed and highly readable using stories from antiquity to the modern day realities confronting all leaders. The march of the chapters brings forward valuable gems on each page of the journey holidays, themes will remain with you and strengthen you, long after you finish reading it. And then for Matthew McConaughey, of course, he’s an Academy Award winning actor in New York Times. Number one best selling author with his memoir that recently came out. He says, Ryan Holiday’s courage is calling traces the history of courage and its many faces through the ages and arrives at the present day with an urgent call to arms for each and all of us. As we battle our enemies within and without, will we choose to rise up to the call of our courage, or blush and bow down to the whispers of our cowardice. Our answer to this question is about more than our sense of duty. It is about our freedom. It’s about more than wins and losses. It’s about our survival. It’s on me, it’s on you. It’s on us take the dare, we may. So a little bit from Matthew McConaughey. And so I really, I would highly recommend this book. I think it’s a great inspirational book. And that would be the way that I would take a look at it, you’re not going to have like a step by step guide. But it’s very useful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:35
So let’s learn a little bit more about the author. So Ryan Holliday is one of the world’s best selling living philosophers. His books like The obstacle is the way he goes to enemy daily stoic. Stillness is the key up here in more than 40 languages and have sold more than 4 million copies. So together, they spent over 300 weeks on the bestseller lists. He lives outside of Austin with his wife and two boys and a small herd of cows and donkeys and goats. And he also has a fun bookstore. In a small town in Texas, I think he lives outside of Austin. So anyway, very cool. So let’s learn a little bit more about the book. So the book is broken down into three parts. The first is fear, because right, in order to be courageous, you need to overcome your fear. You need to dance with your fear anyway,the second part is courage. And the third part is heroic. And that’s when we can be courageous consistently, right as part of who we are in our everyday life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:33
So I’m just going to share some some bits and pieces from this book that I think are useful can maybe broaden your perspective a little bit. And some, you know, there’s some cool stories. So I’ll share just a little bit of those. But let’s start first with fear. So he asks, what forces prevent courage? What makes something so prized, so rare? What keeps us from doing what we can and should do? What is a source of cowardice? And his answer is fear. It’s impossible to beat an enemy you do not understand. And fear in all its forms, from terror, to apathy, to hatred, to playing it small, is the enemy of courage. We are in a battle against fear. So his invitation here is we need to study fear, we need to get familiar with it. We need to grapple with its causes and symptoms. So I talked about dancing, he said, You got to grapple right, like it’s going to be meaty, so you need to understand your fear, because it’s got a lot to teach you. And so he, you know, he really does help us kind of look at the different facets of fear and how it might show up for you in your life, recognizing that fear keeps us from being courageous. One of the chapters that he talks about as it relates to fear is this idea that all growth is a leap. And I really liked that. You’re not growing if you’re not feeling scared at times, if you’re not taking on challenges or you know, saying like, Oh boy, like I don’t know if I can do this, that is really the path of growth. And he shares a fable known as the golden key. And in it the Old Man of the earth shows a young boy, the reality of the world, that there is no progress without risk. But why don’t we all know that? Hope we know that. So moving an enormous stone stone from the floor of the cave, he shows the boy a hole that seems to go on forever. That is the way he says, but there are no stairs, the boy replies, You must throw yourself in. He’s told there is no other way. Boy, I love that all growth is a leap. So think about that little boy, there’s no stairs, there’s no stepping stone, like, how do we know what to do? You must throw yourself in. There’s no other way.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:52
So I’m in the middle of making a very big business decision. And let me tell you, that is how I feel. I’m like, I don’t have no idea how to do this, right? Like, this is something so big to me. And recognizing that I at a certain point, I have to throw myself in, I have to take the next step. I have to ask for a lot of help. And many times, I feel totally clueless. But as I keep taking the next step, I’m right. My perspective is broadening. I’m feeling less fear, I’m feeling more support. And I’m starting to figure it out. And so these are really important concepts for us. Right, all growth is a leak. So another chapter as it relates to fear is the recommendation don’t fear decisions. I think this is actually a really big way that fear shows up for us is in decisiveness, right analysis paralysis, looking at all of our options, thinking about it, instead of acting, right, the most powerful way to overcome fear is by acting, you must have a bias towards action. And so, you know, what Holliday says is what you fear is consequences. So you keep deliberating, hoping you can put them off. You can’t lose. If you don’t choose, of course you can write, don’t be ridiculous, you lose the moment you lose the momentum, you lose your ability to look yourself in the mirror.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:16
So when we avoid decisions, when we avoid acting, we undermine our confidence we undermine our belief in ourselves that ability to look ourselves in the mirror. Boy, we don’t want that to happen to us. So now let’s move on to part two, which is all about courage. So from holiday courage is the management of and the triumph over fear. It’s the decision in a moment of peril or day in and day out, to take ownership to assert agency, over a situation over yourself over the fate that everyone else has resigned themselves to. We can curse the darkness, or we can light a candle, we can wait for someone else to come and save us. Or we can decide to stand and deliver ourselves. Which will it be every hero faces this choice. And so you’ll notice this theme, right like that decision to act, instead of being acted upon is a big part of courage. So in his discussion of courage, Holliday says Fortune favors the bold right. And that’s a very common mantra that we’ve all probably heard.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:28
He talks about the architect Daniel Burnham, who was 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 onesies, twosies of life, but to try to reach to do something so new and different, that it scared them. So if you think about your decisions, if you think about your plans and your life, do you have some plans, or some decisions or some goals that scare you? You should? You should because this is how we grow. This is how we stretch even if we fail, we’ll learn the lessons right if we’re open. Okay, and now we will just touch on part three, which is the heroic. So he talks about courage, right? moral and physical call courage is the act of putting yourself on the line. And so if that’s what we’re going with for courage, he says, then the definition of the heroic is very simple. It is risking oneself for someone else. So I love this right? Because we can be courageous for ourselves. But in order to be heroic, it’s always in service to a higher cause it’s always in service to someone else. It’s putting it on the line, not just for your own benefit for but for the benefit of someone, someone something some larger cause. Is this not one of the greatest expressions of the human species in those situations where real danger lurks where hope has disappeared. Nobody cries for a manager. Nobody cries for the calculator. reasoning of a logic of a logician, they cry for action for a hero for someone to save them to step up and do what we cannot do for ourselves. And in answering this call, the hero enters, however, briefly, a higher plane. I love that. And then I just want to wrap up with one of his examples, as he’s talking about the heroic because he’s talking about someone, most of us are familiar with someone who I have read a lot about this person’s life. And, you know, I really do think, right, like, this person has his flaws, as we all do. But he’s a true hero to me personally, with, with the stance that he took, which were often very unpopular.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:47
So who is this person? This is Winston Churchill, and Holiday discusses him when he talks about the concept of you must go through the wilderness. Now, this is something that I think for most of us puts a pit in our stomach, right? So when he talks about the heroic, he’s like, their lives are not easy. They must go through the wilderness. And he gives fair, he gives several examples of this. But let’s, let’s learn a little bit more about the example of Churchill. So, first of all, he says it’d be wonderful if we cherished our heroes. If we rolled out the red carpet for our creative geniuses. Instead, we put them through the gauntlet, we torture them, we drive them away, because often heroes are unpopular, right? They’re ahead of their time. They’re seeing things that other people don’t see. Sometimes they’re a prophet in the wilderness. So Churchill was not only a prisoner of war in his youth during World War One, but at the height of his political career, he was driven out of public life, his crime. In part, he was right about Germany. No one wanted another war. No one wanted him to be correct, about Hitler’s madness. So it was easier to make him go away, than to prove him wrong. Right. So we know all about Neville Chamberlain, who was the prime minister at that time, and Churchill, really challenged him and people did not like that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:12
So for nearly 10 years, Churchill languished at his estate outside London, or so his enemies thought, in fact, he was reading, he was writing, he was resting, he was making valuable contacts, he was waiting for his moment. So this is a quote from Churchill, every prophet has to come from civilization. Churchill would explain but every prophet has to go into the wilderness, he must have a strong impression of a complex society, and he must serve periods of isolation and meditation. This is the process by which psychic dynamite is made. Oh, look at that. So you know, we, we really have to recognize that sometimes in order to be heroic, it we will be very unpopular. So for selfish reasons, Churchill could have quit just as you can quit at any time. Churchill was 54 years old, in 1929, he could have retired out of spite, he could have retreated to his own pursuits and pleasures, and boy, how many of us have wanted to do that. But Churchill did not do that. He did not do that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:24
When England finally called he wasn’t just ready to answer, he had readied himself for precisely the crisis they called for him to solve. Churchill would be it would be the explosive charge, they, the world needed to go way out there on a limb to fight for what you believe in to be willing to suffer for your beliefs. These are both crucibles of courage and breeding grounds for it. Few leaders are ever perfectly in sync with their times, they’re usually ahead of them, which is going to mean looking around and finding that they stand alone, which is going to mean early moments of small crowds, and few supporters. So one of the last things that I’ll share, and this is really about going through the wilderness.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:08
So this comes from holiday. Remember, between mountains lies the valley, you may have tumbled down from your former heights, you may have been thrown down or simply lost your way. But now you find yourself here. It is a low point. So along desert, a desolate valley, either way, you’ll need to cross it. You’ll need patience and endurance and most of all, love. You can’t let this period make you bitter. You have to make sure it makes you better because people are counting on you. Don’t give up hope. Don’t give up on them. They know not what they do. You on the other hand, do know this desert this wilderness was given to you to cross it’s part of your journey to struggle makes the destination glorious, and heroic. And so right He’s inviting us to embrace the difficult parts of our path, because that absolutely is the hero’s journey.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:00
So there you go, there is a review about the book Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday. It’s got three parts on fear, courage and the heroic which is courage in everyday life. And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/courageiscalling. So one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/courageiscalling. So I’ll have a link to the book and also a great little video where Holliday summarizes the book for you. I’m Social, I’m on Instagram. I’d love to connect with you there @dr.melissasmith. And in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai