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Why Do People Enter Burning Buildings?

Knowing what you stand for clarifies your moral obligations.

When you witness someone do something heroic do you ever ask, “What made them do that?” I know I do.  It is hard to imagine running into a burning building without calculating your odds of success. When you stand outside the building and you feel the heat on your face, it’s natural to determine that the odds are against you. Yet firefighters enter that building anyway. Sometimes, untrained civilians have made that same choice as well. Why did they choose to enter the burning building, while others hesitated and watched the flames rise?


The truth is, Courage did not just well up inside them out of nowhere. The heroic often take action based on what they decided were their moral obligations before feeling the heat. They already knew what they stood for before they were faced with the decision to do nothing or do something.  Because they had already determined those moral obligations, they did not hesitate. When a quick decision needed to be made, there wasn’t an internal debate. They saw their moral obligation and took action. It was not the probability of success that made their decision, it was their sense of Duty.


Duty Definition:  Taking action based on our assigned tasks and moral obligations.


What heroes say after the fact tell us something about the moral obligations they had already determined beforehand. Veterans, first responders, law enforcement, and everyday people who made a heroic choice say things like:


●      I would not let my brothers or sisters down.

●      The team is bigger than me.

●      My Integrity is non-negotiable.

●      I couldn’t just let it happen.

●      Someone had to try to help.


How can we prepare ourselves for the moment when our Courage will be tested?  The fact is, few of us will ever face the prospect of running into a burning building, but rest asssured, our Courage will be tested in other ways.


What will make you more likely to pass those Courage tests? How will your moral obligations become clear? We need to determine what we stand for. Once we know what we stand for, our moral obligations gain clarity. 


Here is a list for you to consider. 


●      Others before self.

●      My word is gold.

●      If not me then who?

●      Always make others better.

●      Always make the situation better.


Maybe you want to stand for these things above.  Maybe you have your own list.  The point is, knowing these things ahead of time will give you Courage when hesitation could make the difference between success or failure or even life or death.


Knowing what you stand for will not guarantee you will act with Courage at that moment of testing.  But without knowing what you stand for, you will be tossed by the waves of life.  Your opportunity to choose Courage will pass while you hesitate with the timid who choose to just watch. You become a bystander in life instead of a person who knows who they are, what they stand for, and therefore takes action.



●      What would you add to the list? 

●      What is your list?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.


Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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