63. Audacity augments courage; hesitation, fear.
What is Publius on about here? Let’s examine.
Defined as “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks,” to be audacious is sometimes looked down upon in our modern society. Toe the line. Don’t make waves. But here we’re told it augments (i.e., increases) courage. To be courageous in the face of fear is to take bold action when others wouldn’t. Surely a touch of audaciousness isn’t always a bad thing.
On the other hand, hesitation augments fear. If there is something of which you’re fearful of doing, the more you hesitate, the more fear you experience, and it just builds from there until you don’t end up taking action. And the moment passes.
Let’s use a hypothetical situation.
Say a cute girl / guy on the subway flashes a quick smile at you. You want to go say hi, but your gut paralyzes you. “Don’t — it’s not worth it. Everyone will listen. She probably wouldn’t be into you anyway. What if she laughs at you? What if everyone laughs at you? What if someone takes a video and posts it on InstaChat? What if it goes viral and really everyone laughs at you? Ahhhhhhh!!!”
Okay, phew, action avoided. But what was gained and what was lost?
What was gained was your ego stayed intact. What was lost was the chance at meeting someone who you might connect with and could become special in your life. Objectively speaking, would the chance that some other (also afraid) person overhears your conversation and snickers matter at all? Do you think they’ll remember 5 minutes later? 5 years later? On their death bed? Would you remember this “embarrassment” on your deathbed? Of course not. Is avoiding such a minuscule “embarrassment” worth missing the chance to possibly make a new connection?
Back to our imagined internal train of thought above, the more we hesitate, the more our brain activates it’s stress responses and we get all worked up. It’s too easy to go off the reservation when we hesitate.
Yes, knowing when to fear is a good thing. It helps keep us alive. But no, the girl on the train is not a saber-toothed tiger. You are not going to die. We have evolved a fear response that is hyper-vigilant, always on alert to perk up and trigger a fight-or-flight response. That is very useful for a harsh life on the savannah. Not so much for a cushy life as a commuting urbanite.
To unpack the flip side a bit, let’s consider that we in fact did act a bit audacious in our hypothetical situation. The cute girl smiled at us for an instant. We could have let it pass, but something propelled us forward (courage?) and we strolled over confidently.
“Do you know what the next stop is?” “Oh yeah, it’s blah blah blah.” “Oh that’s interesting because that stop is blah blah blah.” Conversation started.
And let’s say the conversation went nowhere. That’s fine, chances are that it won’t anyway. Who cares? You go about your day, she goes about her day, everyone else does as well.
But something important happened behind the scenes. Because of your brazen display, your moment of audacity with the whole world watching, you get a little confidence boost. Maybe even a big one. You’ve increased your courage in this type of situation. Next time, it won’t be as hard. You’ve got the experience to know you don’t die a thousand deaths when a stranger “rejects” you. And you’re a stronger, more courageous person for it.
So be a little bold. Show some audacity from time to time. It’s usually better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. Otherwise you might find life has passed you by, and you didn’t take from it what you desired because you were too afraid.
Until next time,
Reading ancient wisdom from a Roman slave is good for you, because it takes courage to not spend all your free time on Netflix and Snapchat.