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Courage and Fear

Courage and Fear: Neurogenesis in the hippocampus generated by fear response in the amygdala
Fear, like all strong emotions, foments neurogenesis
and the integration of new neurons because emotionally charged
experiences are more salient, thus creating stronger memories.
Click the image to read the news article from the University of California
at Berkeley.  Peer-reviewed journal paper from Molecular Psychiatry
may be found here, by lies behind a pay firewall.

Courage is strength of anima—both mental and moral—to venture and persevere, to act in the face of fear, danger, and overwhelming difficulty. Confucius said that «it does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.» This idea entails extraordinary determination; however, its lack of a time-constraint renders it more accurate for private life than for profit-seeking. Swift action is often required for business success. Frequently, timing is everything.

Fear paralyzes. As a flurry of recent neuropsychological experiments has corroborated, fear reduces the velocity of cognitive decision-making, and persistent fear over time decreases functional cerebral mass as millions of neurons shrink or die, widening the brain’s unproductive, anatomic cortical folds. In The Prince, Machiavelli noted the vast advantages of inspiring love instead of terror. A fleeting feeling of love is—inversely considered—an absence of fear, a state of vulnerability that compels action and foments a productive, happy society that precludes the appearance of conspirators. Despite acknowledging this, Machiavelli reluctantly recommended governing through terror-instigating measures solely because fear paralyzes individual and collective actions, thus thwarting rebellious uprisings.

Decelerated mental activity yields mediocre execution, professional conformity, and consequently, when widespread, the propagation of broken promises that pave the way for the materialization of a culture of rotten compromises. Because uprisings aren’t as great a concern to a CEO, COO, CFO or CIO as they are to a prince, managing by inspiring admiration, respect and love is pivotal to securing the long-term success and survival of any corporation. To deserve and receive respect, leaders must inspire courage in others. Empathy is necessary to earn the love of a subordinate or peer.

Mediocre leaders confuse fear with respect and compliments with love and admiration. Empathy demands that courage be rewarded. Combating conformity, on the other hand, requires imposing excellence as the nonnegotiable standard for all labor, as the maximum value of our work-ethic. Excellent execution necessitates a healthy dose of courage, which therefore merits reward and distinction whenever encountered. As a result, when a person defines his own hierarchy of values—his ethic—if he also places growth and excellence as categorically above his preferred value system, then the question of how and when to reward courage becomes moot. To that self-realized leader, any culture of rotten compromises is unacceptable and unlivable.

Originally published by the St. Gallen Symposium.

Also available at ResearchGate.

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