What would you do today if you knew that the action you took would bring about the result that you want? What idea have you been playing around with, but have been hesitant to act upon because you were not sure about how it would be received? Perhaps you can achieve your goal through application of the Audacity Principle.
The audacity principle, simply stated, is this:
More often than not, bold and decisive action will bring about a result that is favorable to you, unless that action is limited by someone else’s authority.
Audacity, in this sense, does not mean to be overbearingly obnoxious, irreverent or impudent; it means to be bold, courageous. It means taking a chance, rolling the dice, taking a leap of faith.
The audacity principle is rooted in historical context: I was first introduced to the idea of swift boldness of action through studying military history. Brigadier General Gary Harrell, who led American forces in the first assault on the Taliban in Afghanistan, was fond of saying that audacity is the key to victory in battle. He, in turn, developed this from another great American general, George S. Patton: the three keys to victory in battle are audacity, audacity, audacity.
We’re not in combat in our daily lives, however; how does swift and decisive military action apply to us? Look at it from a political perspective. One of the most significant political figures of the twentieth century recognized the importance of bold, confident action: Winston Churchill said that the first quality that is needed is audacity.
The audacity principle is not just limited to warfare and politics, however; education reformer John Dewey said that every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. We have robots running around on the surface of Mars because someone, somewhere, had the audacity to say, “I have an idea; how about we try THIS”.
This is all a great academic exercise, nice to know kind of stuff, but how can we apply it to our lives today?
The primary aspect of the practical application of the audacity principle is confidence. Be confident in your delivery, even if you are not confident in your outcome. Assume that your action will bring about the desired outcome…because most of the time it will. Exercising the audacity principle has landed me jobs, internships, grants, and even a spouse (though the audacity may have been more on her part than mine). I have taken several disadvantageous situations and turned them to my benefit through application of the audacity principle.
The problem is that injudicious application of the audacity principle can get you in trouble, and most of the time that happens when your audacity comes up against someone else’s authority. A clear example of this is if you want to try something to see if you can get away with it, and rev your car up to ninety on the interstate…your audacity would certainly be limited by the authority of the Highway Patrol. Jean Cocteau said that “tact in audacity is knowing how far you can go without going to far”; without going up against someone else’s authority.
I was in Northern Africa supervising the establishment of a camp that would be the base of operations for a multinational training exercise. I was in charge of logistics and support, and my buddy was in charge of security. The two of us worked directly for the person in charge of the camp. When we arrived, all that was on the ground was a handful of half constructed buildings, a fence, and a bunch of sand; and in two months we had constructed a fully functioning camp. Throughout those two months, I was exercising the audacity principle daily; deciding where things should go, what should be done. There were, inevitably, a couple of times that my audacity came up against the camp commander’s authority, when my boldness was met a clear and definite “No”. Those moments didn’t discourage me, however, because nine out of the ten things that I wanted to get done were done, and I was able to accept the “no.” Stonewall Jackson was intimately familiar of exercising audacity within limits: it was once said of him, “he would act boldly in harmony with the intent of the higher level commander” That ability to exercise audacity within the limits of authority is what will ensure your success.
So I challenge you today: do something bold. Be audacious. Whatever that is, I don’t know…that’s YOUR action.
Contact a publisher with the book idea that you have been working on. Develop a plan that shows your worth and why you should get a raise. Implement a new policy that you think will improve efficiency in your workplace. Whatever it is, just do it, and then tell us about it: post a comment telling us what bold action you took today, and how it turned out. Your action will inspire others to use the audacity principle in their lives.
What will you do today if you knew that the action you took would bring about the result you wanted? What is that bold idea that you have been playing around with? Why would you not apply the audacity principle to your life, today?