#1421 You Are Your Brother’s Keeper

The Flip Side of What’s In It for Me?

In our last +1, we talked about Heroes and Heroism with Vice Admiral James Stockdale.

We threw our “self-consciousness and embarrassment to the wind” as we looked in the mirror, saw our best selves reflected back at us and committed to BEING HEROIC TODAY.

Today I want to chat about HOW to be Heroic.

Stockdale tells us that, in the midst of the EIGHT years of torture he experienced, he “distilled one all-purpose idea, plus a few corollaries. It is a simple idea, an idea as old as the scriptures, an idea that is the epitome of high-mindedness, an idea that naturally and spontaneously comes to men under pressure.”

He tells us that “If the pressure is intense enough or of long enough duration, this idea spreads without even the need for enunciation. It just takes root naturally. It is an idea that, in this big easy world of yakety yak, seems to violate the rules of game theory, if not of reason. It violates the idea of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, our ideas of human nature, and probably the second law of thermodynamics.”

That idea, he tells us, “is that you are your brother’s keeper.”

He continues by saying: “That’s the flip side of What’s in it for me? If you recognize the first as an expression of virtue and the second as an expression of vice… let Bacon’s distinction add relevance to my concentration on adversity on this graduation day of joy: ‘Adversity doth best induce virtue . . . while luxury doth best induce vice.’”

That’s from the first chapter of Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot featuring a commencement address Stockdale gave in 1981 called “The Melting Experience: Grow or Die” in which he talks about how his 8 years in prison shaped his character.

The one all-purpose idea?



The question is NOT “What’s in it for me?”

The question is “How can I help?”

As Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us: “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'”


As we’ve discussed MANY times, Christopher McDougall tells us that leading with love and compassion is at the root of the ancient Greek word for “hero.”

In Natural Born Heroes he says: “And what Plutarch taught them is this: Heroes care. True heroism, as the ancients understood, isn’t about strength, or boldness, or even courage. It’s about compassion.

When the Greeks created the heroic ideal, they didn’t choose a word that mean ‘Dies Trying’ or ‘Massacres Bad Guy.’ They went with hērōs—‘protector.’ Heroes aren’t perfect; with a god as one parent and a mortal as the other, they’re perpetually teetering between two destinies. What tips them toward greatness is a sidekick, a human connection who helps turn the spigot on the power of compassion. Empathy, the Greeks believed, was a source of strength, not softness; the more you recognized yourself in others and connected with their distress, the more endurance, wisdom, cunning, and determination you could tap into.”

I repeat: Heroes care.

Our secret weapon is LOVE.

It’s Love that gives us the Self-Mastery to DO THE HARD WORK TO HAVE THE STRENGTH FOR TWO such that we can meet the challenges we face individually and as a society.

That’s Today’s +1.

What little or big thing can YOU do Today to show up with more Wisdom and Self-Mastery and Courage and Love and Gratitude and Hope and Curiosity and Zest?

Today’s the day to move from Theory to Practice to Mastery.

Today’s the day to be YOUR brother’s and sister’s keeper.

Day 1. All in.


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