Courage Is Calling is dedicated to discussing courage which is one of the four most important stoic virtues:
This also means that we can expect at least 3 other books from Holiday in the coming few years.
As we could get used to it with his books, it’s easy to read, yet its vocabulary is selective and it’s full of historical facts and examples. If you have a feeling that this style resembles the style of Robert Greene, you’re probably not mistaken. After all, Holiday used to work with Greene in the early years of his career.
Before going into details, there is only one thing I don’t like about the book. Holiday smoothly, but noticeably takes sides in political questions of these days.
While it’s a sign of courage and I strongly believe in the right of free speech, I don’t think that political opinions age well in a book about an ageless virtue.
Still, let’s just consider it as a sign of courage.
As usual in my book reviews, let me share three interesting ideas from the book.
Violence is sometimes the right choice
As Gandhi said, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, you should rather pick violence…
A Stoic should rarely choose violence, but when he should, there is no other option.
We cannot let ourselves be bullied. We cannot do against our morals. Sometimes physical courage is required to protect moral courage. Sometimes we must show force and we have to hit back and mare our stand.
What if everyone acted as such
The young Margaret Thatcher was characterized at a job interview as a too difficult person.
She took it as praise.
Cato, The Younger and Charles de Gaulle were not easy to deal with either. In fact, most people with the courage to say what is on their mind, with the courage to act up to their morals are difficult people.
They are not very agreeable. Their main goal is not to be liked. Their main goal is to achieve their ideals, to make the world a different place.
You might ask the question, why should I be like that? Why should I be someone “too difficult”? The world would be a worse place if everyone acted similarly.
First, I’m not so sure. In a world, where everyone acted up to their morals, where everyone did their best to produce their ideals would be most probably more sincere and we would have more trust in each other, more respect towards the others. I might be wrong. It doesn’t really matter.
Second, most people are not like that. Period. Most people who listen to good pieces of advice, even if they agree with them, they will not do anything at all. Change is hard, it’s easier to be average.
The average will try to be likeable, the average will not be as courageous as the above-mentioned people were. Try to be the difference, try to be the one who will stand still, who people can rely upon. Be brave and act with courage even if people who won’t like it will simply say you are difficult. Take it as praise.
The opposite of fear is…
…courage, many people would say. But they are wrong. Courage is not the opposite of fear. It’s love.
If you’re afraid of doing something and you still find some courage to do it is not because you just sucked courage out of thin air. No. It’s because you have so much love towards the outcome, towards the person who you do it for.
Once you understand this, it’ll be easier to act with courage. If I think about my life, if I think about cases when I was a coward and I acted out of fear or I didn’t act at all… I feel ashamed. Should I have understood what I caused with such acts for those I love, I would have acted with courage. I’m sure my love would have won over my fear.
Next time you freeze in fear, think about what outcome or who you love and for whom you should not let down or betray.
You’ll find the courage.
Courage Is Calling is another interesting book written by Ryan Holiday about Stoicism. While his previous book taught about Stoicism by showing the most important Stoic philosophers, this book approaches stoicism from the “value-side”. Courage is one of the four most important stoic virtues and we get plenty of examples of how courageous people changed human history and how we can also find more courage in our life to make the world a bit better place. Even if we end up a bit more difficult to handle.
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