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What Would Make You Eat a Rat?

Just the thought of a rat is enough to creep some people out. The sight of one slinking along a city street could scatter a crowd.
What, then, are we to make of a man who grilled and ate a rat — to overcome his fear of them?
His name was G. Gordon Liddy, a controversial figure in American history. Liddy went to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard M. Nixon. Liddy tell his story in “Will,” a best-selling autobiography.
Politics aside, Liddy comes to mind as a way of approaching questions of fear and courage. Are these qualities genetic? Can courage be formed through power of will? Or is a strong will just another form of courage?
“I was frightened, small, and a coward,” Liddy writes of his young self. But something in him wanted to change that. In this 2016 NPR interview, Liddy relates seeking out rats on the waterfront to “confront” them. Then, his sister’s cat killed one.
“I cooked and consumed part of the rat,” Liddy said. “And thereafter, I had no fear of rats.”
A previous post looked at former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, who was cool under fire in the Civil War and later in the rough-and-tumble of politics. Were those examples of cool a matter of character or just the luck of the genetic draw?
No less a figure than Socrates posed questions about courage, as outlined in this article in Psychology Today.
Of course, by even raising such questions you run the risk of diminishing Grant’s courage, or excusing the cowardice of others.
That isn’t the purpose of these questions at all. Instead, it’s just to explore who might have the inner qualities to emerge as a great leader, explorer. salesperson — someone like Bill Porter, who famously could shake off the pain of rejection.
Someone with extraordinary courage, whether genetically blessed or with the will to overcome fear, could make a great hire. And they wouldn’t even have to eat a rat.


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