Slavery or Bravery. Pick one.

I’ve wanted to add a new category to address issues of personal development but I didn’t know what to call it. I thought of calling it coaching but decided that was overused. Leadership is likewise overused and besides, I’ve never forgotten Camus who says

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

I thought of calling the category “Stewardship” but figured most people wouldn’t get it. For those who don’t know, my self-identity is that of Steward, a less emotionally loaded way to describe nurturing. Steward sounds better than Nurturer. I could have used Cheerleading for the category title but that sounded dorky. Guardian sounded too paternal and by turns partisan so obviously, my thesaurus wasn’t helping much.

Until I came upon Courage and from there led Brave. Even though I’ve felt that for much of my life I’ve been suspended between tedium and terror, those were words I could identify with. In fact, I have a personal motto. It is:


Slavery or Bravery. Pick one.

And I believe it utterly; you can’t convince me otherwise. As someone who’s had a very difficult and sometimes tragic life, I know what it’s like to be born a victim and to live like one but came such day that I realized I didn’t need to remain a victim because being a victim is a choice and that wasn’t one I chose to make any longer. And if you don’t believe me, you haven’t read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I am a voracious reader yet this book has had the single greatest impact on my life. If Frankl could chose to not be a victim while living in Auschwitz, then I could choose to not be a victim too.

I don’t like to tell my story. People cry (then I have to cry too) or say I’m heroic but I’m not that either. And then they usually say that others who come from where I did have no excuse for their circumstances but they were not given the mind or tenacity I was and besides, saying that anybody could do it trivializes the accomplishment. The other thing that sometimes saved me was temerity because if you’re being kicked too many times, it’s best to keep your head down till you can find a way out. Believe me, few if any of you could have been poorer or more disadvantaged than me so I have little compassion for the trivial excuses people concoct for not being able to do what they want to do. Or intend to do. Or wish to do. I know that if I’m not doing it, I’m coasting. Are you coasting too?

But still for me, surviving wasn’t enough. Thriving was all I was willing to settle for. That’s when I came up with Slavery or Bravery. Pick one. That means that you always have a choice, recognize that you do and take responsibility for it. Sometimes you have to choose Slavery but be clear about it. Say that you’re choosing Slavery for now -out loud. Once that starts to rankle -and it will- maybe you’ll move toward choosing Bravery instead.

The category Slavery or Bravery will include everything from personal improvement to the assumption of responsibility for personal choices. It’ll also include tools and resources that I’ve found useful or thought provoking. I suppose you could also describe entries as “business” tools but I’ve never understood how people can compartmentalize those things to themselves. On “it isn’t personal, it’s business” Adrian Savage says it best

But it is personal. It’s all personal. Every choice you make is personal, because you’re a person doing it. Nobody can walk away from responsibility in that way.

If you’re coasting, you’re a slave. I know I am; I’ve been coasting for quite awhile now and I think it’s time to do something great. I think that many of you come here because you think it’s time to do something great too. In that case, there’s no time like the present; Slavery or Bravery, pick one.

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10 comments

  1. Diane says:

    Everyone has their little sayings. Mine is “Step up to the Plate”. Imagine how funny it sounds hearing my 17 year old daughter repeat it in conversation with her friends. Her last boyfriend didn’t step up and she dumped him! Fear is such a hard one to overcome but the rewards are well worth it. You know the saying, “no guts, no glory”.

  2. I believe the most powerful force in society is a story. A story can be a poem, a motto, an urban legend, a religion, the history of your great-aunt…anything. the pithier the better. A compelling, widespread* story has more power to change the way we think, act and interrelate than anything else. We all run our lives by stories–when times get tough, you tell yourself the story of what your life is going to be like to get yourself through them. if it’s not a compelling or believable* story, it’s easy to lose faith in it.

    *Believability has to do with how many times and from which sources you’ve heard the story, not the truth of it. Urban legends, which are incredibly widespread, are proof of this. Newspapers and newscasters frequently contribute to urban legends like the origins of Thanksgiving, etc.

    So anyway, that was a very un-pithy way of saying: Kathleen, thanks for your awesome Motto, and I’d love to hear the rest of your story.

  3. Melissa Brown says:

    Yes! Slavery or bravery! I had a similar epiphany and I’ve continued to make changes in my life because of it.

    I have not thought of myself as a person who allows fear to run my life, but recently I found a book that has been a great help to me in identifying not only that I do let fear influence me, but what specific fears are controling me. And then it has also taught me some skills to deal with those fears and getting on with what I want to do with my life. I highly recommend it. It is Change Your Life in Thirty Days by Rhonda Britten, a life coach who has had a pretty horrific childhood to contend with. (Her father shot her mother in front of her and then shot himself, too.)What she has done with her life is amazing no matter what context you choose to look at it in.

    Ignore the cheesy title and take a look at this book. I think you will be glad you did.(I just checked and you can read an excerpt on Amazon.com while you’re there picking up Kathleen’s book as someone’s holiday gift.)

  4. La BellaDonna says:

    My own saying (now disseminated by my goddaughter), is “Choices Made, Prices Paid.” Accepting that for every decision, there is a consequence (including the decision to make no decision). Accepting, in advance, that there may be results or repercussions that last life-long in consequences to the choices made, or not made.

  5. Kim Owen says:

    I love this post Kathleen. It comes at a perfect time for me, my motivation has been flagging lately, and it’s nobody’s fault but mine! Please continue with this category by all means.

    My personal motto is – “no risk, no reward”. Oh, and another one that I love is – “action conquers fear”. Works every. single. time.

  6. Lauren says:

    Kathleen – thanks for re-posting this – I’ve just found you recently and keep coming back for more. This post in particular is remarkably appropriate for my current circumstances. That phrase, “Slavery or Bravery. Pick One.” is a much needed, metaphorical kick-in-the-pants! Thanks again!

  7. kpotenti says:

    Your phrase “Slavery or Bravery. Pick One” is so appropriate for how I’ve been feeling recently. I’m at a crossroads and don’t know exactly how to get where I want to be but know I won’t be happy doing anything else. And ironically enough, another door has recently opened so I will be choosing Bravery.

  8. Jody says:

    Kathleen,
    I am so glad that you are sharing these insights. Sometimes people just need to be reminded that they can be the architects of their futures, that they indeed have the power to choose.

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