The newspaper in the lobby had a photo of an irate protester yelling at a legislator “Your job doesn’t require you to run into a burning building!”
Let me offensively reply “Your job doesn’t require you to miss a paycheck when customers don’t come in. And then another paycheck, and another one.” Why do I dare such an offensive comment? Because I have the former sort of courage, and I don’t have the latter. So I quite naturally consider the latter courage to be the greater.
I admit I can’t lay proof to full burning-building physical courage. Also, I may have less physical courage now than I did in earlier decades. But I have the credentials for the courage of a job that puts one in physical danger, because I’ve done it. I have stepped forward to deal unarmed with someone angry and stronger than I. I have been injured and persevered in the restraint, and I have come back after injury to do it again. And I have had moments at work where the great sadness comes into the back of my mind whispering, “I wonder if this is where it all ends.”
I don’t want to oversell that. Staff seldom get killed here (two in my 30+ years, neither in my building). My current position has much less risk than my previous one. There are many fields more hazardous than mine. But then, neither to firemen and police get killed all that often either.
I don’t think I have an entrepreneur’s courage or a salesman’s courage. Or at least, I don’t have the courage they might have to show, if business goes downhill, if customers stop coming, when no one wants your product or services, when you’ve got mouths to feed or employees to pay. Not all who go into sales or have their own business ever have to face that humiliation and failure, certainly. But it’s a possible outcome. And I have willingly made the trade of a regular paycheck, however modest, rather than take that risk. It is impolite and seems ungrateful to even mention it, but there are firemen and policemen who have made essentially the same trade I did. I don’t imagine it’s all of them or even most. But it’s there, and it’s damned offensive for people to pretend it isn’t.
Perhaps I would have developed entrepreneurial courage had I had to. My dad was a salesman all his life, my brother had his own business, and I’m similar to them. We can all endure a lot more than we think we can. Had I done so, I might be writing the opposite essay now, telling you that having a business slowly fail under you doesn’t take anywhere near the courage of running into a burning building. So be it. My experiences are what they are, and I want to express my admiration for those willing to endure risk, sit at table with humiliation, and dine with insecurity every night for years. It takes courage, and you’re a better man/woman than I.