Courage and Resiliency

At a recent parent’s coffee, a dad asked me a question that caught me off guard: “What do you want the boys who graduate from UCC to remember? And please don’t tell me it’s about making friends.”

This is the kind of query that can activate my personal cliche-o-meter, but I hope our boys feel valued for who they are and not just for what they’ve done. I remind them from time to time that they won’t put your transcript on your tombstone (Thank God!) I also hope that in addition to the standard set of virtues (compassion, integrity, respect, responsibility, and fairness), they develop their courage and resiliency muscles.

On courage: Aristotle said that we learn courage by doing courageous things. He suggests we should think about courage as a muscular rather than just a cognitive activity. (The easy thing to do is realize you need to talk to your brother about his drinking. The HARD part is actually having the conversation.)

On resiliency: Our boys are a talented bunch, but as gifted as they may be, each will still face that dark moment of the soul. They may not get the job, the school, or the spouse that they want. How will they deal with those inevitable setbacks, and what can we do to help them with this.

I’ve wondered what it would be like if we could bring in a dad or an Old Boy who could talk to the boys about  a time he failed, a time he was fired, or circled zero. Would that help our boys understand that they have it in them to bounce back when life throws them to the turf?


3 thoughts on “Courage and Resiliency

  1. Jim,

    Great idea to have people speak on failure, and the benefits of going through the experience. The inability to accept failure as a part of overall success, or even weigh the cost of failure rationally, skews decision making and narrows our view of what is possible.

    So many people stream their kids to their strongest sports and subjects, react with horror when they get a B or get moved to the second line, and then can’t figure out why they fall apart when their raw talent meets equal or greater competition.

    It might be especially fun to have a couple of venture capitalists, living as they do with great successes and spectacular failures, get together and swap disaster stories.



  2. Jim. Your remarks about bouncing back from adversity reminds me of the famous scene in the movie “Wall Street” when the young stockbroker Bud Fox is taken into custody and arrested by the SEC, and his boss, Lou Mannheim (Hal Holbrook) looks at him and says: “Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.”

    We should be spending hours, not minutes, discussing Rudyard Kipling’s poem “IF” with our young people.

    For a great read, Paul Johnson’s 2009 short biography on Winston Churchill, is focussed on the man’s humor, resilience, courage, and eccentricity as no other biography –it is a story of bouncing back from huge defeats — all about character.

    At the very least, your remarks should spawn a much needed in-the-classroom discussion with our young people.

  3. Jim,

    Thanks for the thought; nothing seems more important to me than these two traits. Interestingly, in response to the parent’s comment, some of my UCC friendships have done the most to inspire my pursuit of courage and resiliency (see Tom Szaky and Alex Salzman – two grads from around my time).


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