#1583 Areté +1° #384: Soul Force, An Origin Story

Gandhi’s Great Soul (& Yours!)

Hi, this is Brian.

Welcome back to another Areté +1°, another micro-chapter from our new book, Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential.

451 of the absolute best ideas I know, helping you move from theory to practice to mastery.

This one is called…


In our last +1°, we talked about the fact that YOU are my all-time favorite hero. (It’s true.)

We also talked about the fact that, although every hero expresses it in different ways, EVERY (!) hero has the SAME superpower.

We named it… Soul Force.

Today I want to share a quick origin story on where I got that phrase.

It involves one of my heroes: Mahatma Gandhi.

(Btw: Did you know that mahatma means “great soul” in Sanskrit? Yep. Aristotle had a word for that in ancient Greek as well: magnanimous.)

We’re all familiar with Gandhi’s (paraphrased) admonition that, if we want to change the world, we each must be the change we want to see.

What you may not know is just how FIERCELY disciplined Gandhi was. He practiced his philosophy with a relentlessness that I find deeply inspiring. He was the living embodiment of Areté.

Of course, Gandhi liberated India via what we called “non-violent resistance” in the West. But “nonviolent resistance” is a VERY weak translation of the Sanskrit word he coined to capture the essence of his movement and practice.

The phrase he used was satyagraha.

That word comes from two Sanskrit words: sat and graha. Sat means “beingness” or “truth.” Graha means “polite insistence” or “force.”

Gandhi fiercely believed in and fiercely challenged his followers to stand in the power of truth. He knew that Britain’s domination of India was morally wrong and that, if he and millions of others could stand in that truth without resorting to violence, he could liberate the country without having to go to war.

Now, like many ancient/foreign words that are difficult to translate into English (see: eudaimonia and Areté!), satyagraha can be translated as not just “truth force” but also as “love force” or…

Soul Force.

There’s an ineffable and extraordinary power that is palpable in an individual who is standing in their truth—living with fierce integrity to their highest ideals.

THAT is what Gandhi cultivated within himself and was able to help cultivate within enough people to literally change the world.

It’s also what every hero we’ve ever admired has embodied and what I am so fiercely committed to personally embodying and to helping you embody in your own idiosyncratic way such that we can literally change the world.

How do we do that? By showing up and living in integrity with our highest ideals.

Not someday.


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