One simple formula for bravery

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”
― Epictetus

Back in the day, in my beloved teenage years, I was a boxing champ, at least in my state, fly weight and all. I have to say that I felt pretty proud, it’s nice to say you are a champ and have a few wins under your fists. But as in everything, it is not just winning, but losing as well, and sometimes, losing terribly. I haven’t forgotten to this day, my most terrible defeat and I have two great lessons I still carry with me from that horrible, horrible day.

Ok, some context. The day of the fight I awoke sick, I know, great luck. I had a cold and had every symptom of it, but what bothered me the most was that my body felt extremely weak. The fact that I wasn’t in my 100% perturbed me massively because that precise day I had to fight a kind of beast. He was a young kid brought up in a nasty neighborhood, used to fight every day with his bare fists. I was pretty nervous about the fight and being sick just made it utterly worse.

I did not want to say I was sick for fear of looking like a coward so I went anyways, terrible decision.

When I got up to the ring and prepared myself for the fight I talked to my self in my head: Alright, let’s give it all, punch as if you were going to die, just do anything you can to punch him, anything. Terrible idea, again.

In boxing, there is this amazing thing called: technique. Great boxers have a great

technique, in fact, that is why they train every day. You don’t want to throw random punches, you want to actually hit the guy and most importantly, don’t get tired unnecessarily.

That day, I threw my technique out the window and charged like a mad and sick hurt beast at my opponent, losing and wasting stupidly the little energy I had.

I got my ass kicked so bad that the referee had to stop the fight in front of about 300 people, including my parents, my coach obviously, and some friends that went to see the match. What was even more humiliating was that it wasn’t even a good fight, I just went like a madman throwing punches randomly, losing my breath and falling to the floor in under 2 minutes. Petty.


There is a lesson in every catastrophe, of that I’m sure. So here are the two lessons I carry with me to this day, in my heart to be honest.

Never lose your cool

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”
― Epictetus

Life is not fair. Sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. There are many times you in which you will suffer from huge disadvantages. I’m talking economic, physical, social and so many others. There is never going to be a point on which you have all the cards at your favor.

That day, yes, I was sick, I could play the victim card, and wine that the reason I lost was my sickness. But the fact is that I attacked my opponent with no intelligence whatsoever. Instead of focusing on what was under my control, like my technique (which was pretty good, not to brag), I focused on how bad I felt and let my disadvantages get the best out of me. I could have given a better fight if I didn’t have lost my head. I know that for sure.

Now, I’ve stumbled into several situations in my life where I need a cool and clear head and I remember painfully that day, on the floor, defeated with everyone looking at me. What I do now is that I clear my head and trust my wit, my intelligence and focus on what is under my control.

Again, this does not mean that you will win every time, but it increases your chances, a lot.

Mind your posture

When the fight was over, I had to get off the ring and walk the “walk of shame”. I call it that way because I had to walk through the entire stadium with everyone looking at me, blood in my face, sick and tired, utterly defeated. God, just remembering it gives me creeps.

Anyways, I started walking with my coach and I didn’t notice I was walking with my head down, looking at the floor, my entire body screaming: defeat! Then, as we walked a little, suddenly, my coach grabbed bought my shoulders hard and with an angry and cunning look almost yelled at me: stand up straight son! your fights are not over yet!

He was right, I still had to get home and look my dad in the face, I still had to train the next day, I still had to face so many things, walking as a loser was not going to help, it would only make matters worst.

Walking with my head high did not change the fact that I lost and failed stupidly, but what it did change was how I faced my defeat, by choosing to stand straight and high, I was choosing to face my defeat with courage and dignity. He was right, the fights never end, either you lose or you win, you have to mind your posture, your posture speaks of your disposition. Your disposition to face life as a coward or as a brave man.

One simple formula for bravery

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.”
― Epictetus


That’s it.

The day of the fight, I felt terrible, obviously, so my body language was showing exactly what was happening inside of me. I had my head down and I wasn’t looking for any more fights, so, based on my feelings, I acted by walking with my head down and spirit low and therefore, I identified with a loser mentality.

My coach changed my predicament, he made me change my posture consciously and with this simple action, he changed the whole equation.

By choosing to walk up straight, you first make a rational and conscious decision to choose who you want to be in the first place, what you strive to identify with, which in that day, was at least a man with dignity, then I acted by standing up straight, which was hard, obviously, but then I felt better, I felt good and started to ready for what was coming next, not fearing it.

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.”
― Epictetus

We tend to live life directed by how we feel, this is a terrible choice. Put together, the formula for a petty life is this:

Feelings, actions, identity.

Better to choose reason and take control over who you are:

identity, action, feelings.

Who do you want to be? Then act, and let the feelings come afterward.

Joan of Arc

This is a portrait of Joan of Arc when she was captured. In case you don’t know her, she was a peasant from France that led the entire army against England in the 100-year war.

Imagine what would have been at the time, for a woman to lead an entire army.

Look at her stance, look at her posture.

Though defeated, temporarily, she walks with grace and proudness.

I like to compare my decision to stand tall that day to her in this portrait.

Standing up straight is a personal decision. It is also the ignitor to choose to live life with courage and dignity. Just a simple formula for bravery. I hope it serves you well.

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

Complement this blog post with the power of responsibility.

Subscribe here

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store