“There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” – Admiral William Frederick (Bull) Halsey, Jr.
Growing up I never cared much for heroes. Superman, Aquaman, Captain America. I liked the action and drama but I couldn’t identify with the characters. Batman was cool, but mostly because he was a tortured average guy with lots of money and cool toys.
I’ve always been more attracted to real people and real situations, mostly men. Probably because I empathize more with them.
Heroic decisions in history
I’m sort of a history buff. If there’s a documentary on the Civil War, World War II or the Vietnam War I’ve probably watched it a half-dozen times or more. I know the men, the machines, the weapons, the battles. I also like biographies about presidents, celebrities and even not-so-famous people. I’m fascinated by the decisions that they made, individually and collectively, that ultimately determined who they were and what they stood for. I’m also interested in how they made decisions, what information they used.
These ordinary people and leaders faced extraordinary situations. Often the lives of thousands, if not millions, of men and women lay in the balance.
I’ve often imagined Dwight Eisenhower on the eve of the D-Day invasion, Harry Truman the night before the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, or Abraham Lincoln the night before he delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. These were serious, torturous decisions.
But not every decision ripples across the lives of millions. Or do they?
Many of us have heard of The Butterfly Effect. The theory suggests the flap of a butterfly’s wings in South America could create the slightest atmospheric change triggering more significant changes which ultimately result in a tornado in Texas.
Whether you subscribe to that theory or not, I believe it’s undeniable that each of us makes decisions daily that ripple out and effect the lives of those around us like a drop of water as it strikes a calm pool.
Heroic decisions don’t only occur during political upheaval, war and international turmoil. Daily each of us makes heroic decisions, like:
- The pregnant teenager choosing to have her baby.
- The father going to the job he’s over-qualified for because it provides for him and his family.
- The single mother wiping the sleep out of her eyes at 5 a.m. to go to her first of two jobs today.
- The young girl in the back seat of a car pushing away the hand of the boy she thinks she loves.
- The man late for an appointment stopping at the intersection rather than racing through and jeopardizing other drivers.
- The college student fumbling with his car keys outside the local pub deciding to call a cab instead.
Heroic decisions don’t always save Gotham City. Sometimes they just save you, someone near you or a total stranger. But the decision effects more than you and the other person. It effects everyone that depends on you or them.
So the next time you get ready to make a decision, don’t assume that it’s of little consequence. Assume that it’s of much consequence. Don’t do what’s right only when people are watching. Assume someone is always watching. The sum of who you are is determined by the incremental additions you make each day.
There is a verse in the Bible that says: It’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.
The general interpretation is that success or failure can be found in the details. So consider wisely your next decision, it may be of greater consequence than you think. Not every decision will cause a tornado in Texas but better to err on the side of caution.
How you can make heroic decisions
- Expect challenging times – It’s not a question of if, but when, they will come.
- Decide in advance how you will respond to situations – Don’t wait until the traffic light is yellow and waning.
- Allow yourself to fail – Just because you fail, doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
- Forgive yourself when you fail – When you fall get up, wash your face, and get back in the fight.
- Be thankful for good times.
- Never quit.
What heroic decision did you make today? How heroic decision will you make tomorrow? How can you encourage someone else to make a heroic decision today?