Two o’clock in the morning courage

Napoleon at the Sphinx

A couple of months ago, in a professional development session, the subject of ‘2:00 AM courage’ was brought up. We were reading about Napoleon, who had this thought about courage:

When he mentioned courage, Napoleon had also in mind moral courage – what he liked to call “two o’clock in the morning courage.” When bad news comes to a person at that hour, it is dark, he is alone, and his spirits are at low ebb; it requires a special brand of courage at such a time to make the necessary decision. Such courage is spontaneous rather than conscious, but it enables a general to exercise his judgement and make decisions despite the unexpected or the unfortunate surprises.

I don’t think this type of courage is relegated just to the late night or early morning, but also to generally trying circumstances. Said plainly, it is easy (or easier) to make difficult decisions when seated comfortably in the office chair or even in the middle of the day at the Company CP. It is an altogether different task to make a difficult decision when time is short, morale is low, and there is an overwhelming desire to slow down or get some rest.

It is in these situations that I’ve always found value in asking myself “what is the right answer?” Usually, we know what the “right answer” is, and by simply asking the question, the right thing to do reveals itself. By ignoring that question, it is easy to slide by, and ultimately, do the wrong thing.

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