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Blog: The Power of Courage

By Dr. Laura on September 3, 2021
Blog: The Power of Courage

I’m going to talk about courage today, not heroism – that's sort of the epitome of courage. Heroism is not being a baseball star, a football star, none of that is heroism. You call those heroes? They're not heroes. Heroes are people who put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of someone or something else other than themselves. That's a hero.  


I remember the movie about the airline pilot who took off from Newark. That plane was not going up, it was coming down. There's something terribly wrong with it. I don't remember what and he put it down in the water. Everybody called him a hero and he said, “No, I'm a pilot, I did my job. I didn't intentionally get on this plane knowing it was going to tank and figure I'm the one who will save the day.” He was honest about it. “I'm not a hero. There was no intent. That was, ‘oh shit’ and then using a lot of years of talent.”  


Thank goodness he was talented. He knew how to put down that very big plane and nobody died. Dan knows everything, and he put on my screen, “Canadian geese flew into both engines.” Wow, okay, that's pretty scary. Canadian geese are big. You just need one.  


So, that's not heroism. Heroism is putting yourself in harm's way for the benefit of somebody else. Like for example, the European countries involved in World War II had people in them who put themselves and their families in harm's way to save Jewish people from being killed by the Nazi regime. Those are heroes. Because if they were caught, they and their families would die a horrible death and probably be hung in the square of the city as a warning to everybody else. That's a hero, not a football player. Please, don't call these people heroes. It's annoying. At least, if you're going to do it, don't do it near me.  


Lot of people have done research on people who put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of an ideal or people – even animals. And they've asked them if they've survived, “Why, why did you do this?” 


That's an amount of courage that's almost insane. I mean, all creatures want to survive. There was a risk of not surviving for someone you didn't know or an ideal we could talk about later. Why? It’s only an animal. Why? It wasn't your kid. Why?  


It was an almost universal response. And no, they were not all asked in the same room. This is over decades and decades. They all said the same thing: it was the right thing to do. That's how I was brought up. I didn’t think of it as heroic. Part of me thought it was seriously stupid, tremendous risk. But I had to because it was the right thing to do. That was it. It was the right thing to do.  


Now, where do you get that from? Where do you get the notion of the right thing to do – other than the end of each hour on this program? Where else do you get it? From your parents! If you have any and if they’re reasonable parents by spending their time on parenting and being decent human beings. Other than that, you won't get them from your parents. From books about history with stories about people who put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of others or an ideal. The American Revolution was based on that concept. Signing the Declaration of Independence at the time was pretty much thought of as a suicide act. And if you haven't seen a picture, Google it and see John Hancock’s name. He wanted to make sure if they were going to come after him, they came after him. Huge, how he signed his name. You go Google it and see what it is.  


What does it take? Some people have estimated that it takes 10 seconds from the moment we're confronted with something. Some people take the 10 seconds to think about it. Other people do it reflexively because that's what they know to be the right thing to do. Are they scared? Let me make one thing perfectly clear. All heroes are scared. It's just not a red light. The 10 seconds is for the other people to stand there and think, how can I avoid this? Ten seconds; a person of great character and courage or not?  


Character. Let me tell you about character. I'm just going to pick things out of the air. There’s a race, and I did it once. Unless I'm in a boat three times bigger than the one I was in, I ain't doing that one again. It was way too hard on my body. It's from here in the mainland to Hawai’i. It's called the Trans-Pacific, Transpac for short. Every year there are certain people who do it, like the Disney clan. They spend God knows how many tens of millions of dollars on new boats every year. Roy Disney, I believe. I mean that's richer than rich. Every year, how much money is spent making the boat, getting a crew that's the best crew in the world, and then doing this race?  


So, there they are, out in the ocean, killing it, really killing it when another boat got in terrible distress. Doesn't matter what happened to it. But when you're in the middle of Transpac, you are the farthest from land than anywhere else on the face of the earth. This is not good. If something goes wrong – well on this boat, something went wrong. And Disney's boat – I don't know if he was honored or not – Disney's boat stopped racing and went to rescue the people.  


You can say, well, he had infinite funds, he can always do it again next time. Doesn't matter. You got all these competitive people who gave up the race to go save people. That's character. That is just character, where people and ideals are more important than the self. Character. That's enough for now.  


We in the sailing community were very impressed. And by the way, it's the right thing to do and it's what we're all supposed to do. I was in a race one time and a boat was in distress and a lot of boats congealed, so I call it. And I was one of them. They didn't need our help so off we went. Normally, you inform the people in charge of the race of the time you took out to do a potential rescue and they give you that time back. I don't know if anybody put in time. It wasn't a lot because they said, “No, we're good.” We didn't. We figured it's a long race. Minutes against a long race. What the hell? Let's just keep going.  


I don't remember the race now. Where it went? They all blur. It's funny the guys on my crew remember every moment of every race. Me? I erased that when it's over. I come home....did you race today? Wait a minute, yeah. How did you do? Well, we either did crappy, okay, or we won.  


Yesterday, I had a race, and we did crappy. It happens. Everything kept going wrong. Things were breaking and my eyes were crossing. It's like, please, does something have to break again? Come on, that's no fun.  


So, we did crappy. We were still out on a pretty day on the water and there were about five minutes where she was just cutting through the water beautifully in the groove. The rest of the time was chaos. No matter - a beautiful day on the water with people I enjoy.  Perfection.  





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