Lately, I’ve been driving up to LA more often (I’m in San Diego). I hate the drive, so I usually throw a PandoMonthly talk into my car to help pass time. They’re all spectacular, but one that continues to stick out is the Ben Horowitz chat. The whole thing is awesome — but one quote in particular resonated with me.
“The number one thing we look for in an entrepreneur is courage. Aristotle said that courage is the first virtue. Reason is, if you don’t have that — you don’t have any virtue. All the other things — honesty, integrity — they don’t get activated unless you have courage. It’s easy to be honest — unless it’s going to cost you your job, your marriage, or something else that you care about. Then it’s hard to be honest. So without courage, and you don’t have anything. You’re a zero character person.”
It struck a chord with me. Courage really is the cornerstone of everything. You always start with raw courage, and build up from there. Without it, your character is ephemeral — constantly fluctuating and adapting to the situation. Sometimes low quality, sometimes medium, probably never high. There’s no concept of yourself. You’re merely trying to fit in instead of injecting your own flavor. Zero character.
You need courage. Otherwise you can’t be successful or happy. Real success requires being innovative and original. You can’t do that through imitation. Without courage, you try and fit in through imitation. And by definition, a copycat is always 2nd to originality.
And you won’t be happy. You’re constantly trying to fit in, instead of being yourself. You ignore things that bother you, and you start to build resentment. Ultimately, that becomes destructive — you burn out and stop caring about your work quality, environment, relationships, etc. And since work takes up most of our working hours, you can’t be happy if you’re unhappy at work.
But when you are courageous, everything seems to magically align. When I say courageous, I mean — speak up when you think something is wrong. Ask questions, have an opinion, do what you think is right. Don’t worry about what the norm is or what other people will think. Be yourself.
You might step on some toes. You might piss some people off. They’ll get over it. In the long run, people will respect you for having an opinion and being honest. You’ll develop a unique reputation and maybe even make some friends. But regardless, you’ll be unique and have some character.
And lastly, being courageous is easy — you just have to act like yourself all the time. It’s very natural, easy, and stress free. You maximize learning and minimize regret. If you disagree with everyone and are vocal about it — you’re either wrong and end up learning, or you’re right and look like a genius. There is no losing outcome.
So be courageous, live your life. It’s the surest way to be happy and successful.