Vince Lombardi said, “Winners Never Quit & Quitters Never Win.” I’m going to argue that this is a dangerous sentiment, and ultimately false. I’m also going to argue that courage is ultimately more important than bravery.
Some of you may know that I was conscripted into the infantry in 1982, like thousands of white South Africans. I spent 17 months in Namibia (previously South West Africa).
As a soldier in a war zone, I was tested and had many opportunities to be brave. The scariest moment during this challenging time that almost drove me crazy was when I had to chase a Wind Scorpion out of my trench. Neither of us was hurt.
I don’t want to talk about my banal and benign military experience, but rather about two people. One was a genuine soldier. The other, a conscientious objector.
They show the difference between bravery (staying the course) and courage (quitting).
The soldier was involved in a lot of conflict, and had many opportunities to display his bravery. He has the medals to prove it.
The soldier and I had a chat one day and the conscientious objector, who is known to us both, came up. The soldier admired the conscientious objector’s courage in standing up for his beliefs. He said, “I wish I had his courage.”
That’s when it occurred to me. Being brave in a war is comparatively easier than having the courage to speak against something you find abhorrent.
What situation are you in now that you need to say “no” to and that you need to quit? I’ve no doubt that whatever path you’re on, it takes bravery to stay the course: A dead-end job. A loveless relationship. A soulless existence. A business that’s never going to fly. To quit these for something better takes courage, that’s for sure. It takes courage to play bigger than you are now. It takes courage to bring your gifts to the world. It takes courage to admit defeat.
And, most of all, it takes courage to know when to quit.
If I think about my own situation: I used to stay in untenable situations because it served me. I could play the victim so that I could get sympathy and attention. Quite pathetic, if I think about it now.
I didn’t have to take responsibility because the ‘world was doing this to me’. It was only when I realised that the world doesn’t give a shit about my feelings one way or another, and that I was doing it to myself, that I decided to change.
It was Carlos Castaneda that gave me the nudge that changed my life:
“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. … Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you. . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, alone, one question. . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.”