Be Prepared to Be Courageous

We must be mentally prepared to be courageous, you never know when the call will come.

When I give my Five Be’s talk and I get to the part about “Be Courageous”, I spend most of the time on the subject of “Moral Courage.” The reason I do that is because few of us will get the opportunity to demonstrate “Physical Courage”, but we all get the chance to demonstrate “Moral Courage” on a daily basis. In the course of our daily lives, we won’t run into burning buildings, dodge Taliban gunfire while directing air strikes, or engage in a running gun battle with a madman.

Moral Courage on a Daily Basis

Most of us, however, get the chance to be morally courageous every day. We can stand up for someone being bullied, we can be honest when in our dealings with others even when it’s difficult, we can uphold standards of conduct and speech. These things are courageous because they require the virtue of Fortitude. We have to be strong on the inside and sometimes swim against the stream to do what’s right. It’s not always popular to do the right thing, but it’s always right. An ethics instructor I once had used to tell us constantly, “First Principles, gentlemen. If you start there you avoid a multitude of sins.” First Principles are things like, “It’s wrong for the strong to take advantage of the weak” or “It’s wrong to cheat,” etc. What he meant was there is such a thing as “Right” and “Wrong”–we all know this instinctively–it’s in the application of those Principles where we sometimes get ourselves into trouble. To avoid a misapplication, we need an objective system of ethics outside ourselves, and internal compass with an external orientation.

The Need for Courage Can Come Unexpectedly

I’m sure when Air Force Master Sergeant Dan Wassom woke up the morning that a tornado would take his life, he hadn’t planned to be courageous. The tornado struck after dinner, around 7pm, and Wassom calmly acted to protect his family. One doesn’t “fight” a tornado, but how one responds to a crisis affects those around them. As a combat veteran, Wassom must’ve understood that he couldn’t panic because his family depended on him and would take their cue from him on how to act. According to,

Wassom’s wife told his parents that he remained calm, cool and collected even as the monster twister began to consume their 2,300-square-foot home.  As Wassom bent his 6-foot-2 frame over his youngest daughter, forming a semi-protective cocoon over her, a heavy structural beam struck the back of his neck and a one-by-four impaled his chest. Lorelai lost a toe on her left foot and suffered a serious injury to her right shoulder, but she, along with her mother and sister, Sydney, survived.

Wassom was a hero because he kept his head and acted even though anyone in his situation would’ve been terrified. Courage, it’s said, is not the absence of fear, but doing what’s necessary despite being afraid.

Prepare to Be Courageous

The best way to be the one who “rises to the occasion” is to be prepared. Be the guy who has the jumper cables, first aid kit, and chemlights in your trunk. Get rudimentary first aid training, think through what you’d do in a natural disaster, etc. You might not ever be called upon to be a hero, but then again…


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straighforward Guide to Life.

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