John F. Kennedy technically won the 1960 U.S. Presidential Election by less than half a percentage point. But actually, he won by making two phone calls. As we explain in Courage is Calling, in October of that year, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, denied bail, and sentenced to four months hard labor on a chain gang. Coretta Scott King, worried that her husband might be beaten or lynched, called both the Nixon and Kennedy campaigns. Both desperately needed the black vote. Though he was friends with King and sought his advice when he led the Eisenhower administration’s civil rights efforts, Nixon hesitated. Not wanting to wade into the middle of controversy, when the call came, Nixon betrayed King. Kennedy, meanwhile, made calls first to console Coretta then to secure King’s release.
King made it known who stepped up for him when he needed it. Kennedy went on to win the election two weeks later by just thirty-five thousand key votes across two states. How much time would it have taken to pick up a phone and call the wife of a good man wrongly imprisoned? Twenty seconds? Twenty seconds of cowardice cost Nixon the office.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what your track record is. What matters is what you do in a critical moment—sometimes even less than a moment. Do you pull the trigger? Or are you too scared?
It takes just a few seconds to hit send on that email...
...to get those first words out of your mouth
...to put your arm in motion to volunteer
...to take that first step in the run toward a machine-gun nest
...to switch your vote from yes to no or no to yes
...to pick up the phone, as Kennedy did
Can we promise you that something good will come of it? No, outcomes are never certain. What is certain is that the failure to act, even just twenty seconds of cowardice, sticks to us like a scarlet letter. “I was afraid” is not an excuse that ages well, particularly for those who wish to be remembered well by the people they love, respect and admire.
Think about that today as you consider whether to get up and approach that attractive person across the room. As you’re mulling over that big decision. As you’re questioning whether you should speak up or just go along with something you disagree with. Don’t get intimidated by all of it as a whole, as Marcus said. Just look at what’s immediately in front of you. Just take that single step. You can’t swallow the elephant in one bite, as the saying goes. Break courage down—the most important of the virtues to the Stoics—into little pieces.
Because no one is brave, generally. We can only be brave, specifically. For a few seconds. With a few seconds of bravery we can be great. And that is enough. ...The Daily Stoic
Often the answers you receive are determined by HOW you ask your questions.
- Darren Hardy
|World Visitor Map|