Musings from the CU Suite

Mar 28, 2013

Three Personal Lessons from The Heart and the Fist

Written by Anthony Demangone

The book had been sitting on my desk for a year.  

It was a gift from a speakers bureau.  When I accepted the job to be NAFCU's COO, a number of people lined up to meet with me.  Many of them were trying to wedge their product or service into our hands, in the hopes that we'd buy their "widget." 

During one of those meetings, a speaker's bureau representative handed me a book.  The Heart and the Fist. 

"You should read this.  I really think you'll like it." 

The implication was clear.  You'll like the book, and you should hire its author to speak at one of your conferences. 

If someone hands me a book, or marketing materials, I make no promise other than to read it and give them a fair read.  A fair shake.

And that book had been on my desk ever since.  Unread.  For a year.

Fast forward a bit.  One of my colleagues hands me a list of possible speakers for this year's Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee Conference.  Included in that list was Eric Greitens.  And it noted that he was the author of The Heart and the Fist.  We ultimately selected Eric to speak at the conference.  And a few weeks ago, I saw that book.  Still on my desk.

OK, it was time to start reading.  

Over the course of last weekend, I started flying through the book, and annoying my wife.  Mandy, you won't believe this....I'd bellow from the living room.  Here's what I found.

The Heart and the Fist is a story of excellence.  Service. Hard work. Commitment. Strength.  Honor. And Compassion. 

It is an answer to those who say today's generation is selfish.

It is a portrait - almost a reminder - of how greatness is within us all.  Of what is possible.

It is the story of Eric Greitens. 

He's a Duke graduate. A pretty good boxer. An Oxford scholar. A photographer. A humanitarian. A Navy Seal. And a New York Times best-selling author.

He's visited nearly every continent and spent his time learning how to protect the weakest among us. The street children of Bolivia. The survivors of Rwanda. The sick and suffering of India.  Bosnian refugees. And the list goes on.  But while donations of goods and money are wonderful, sometimes the weak need protection. And that's what led Greitens to give up an offer to continue his studies in Oxford, and a job offer at a high-paying consulting firm, to take a gamble.  

To try to become a Navy Seal. Eric signed papers that committed him to the U.S. Navy for 8 years, and all it gave him was a chance to become a Seal. If he failed, he'd still owe the Navy those eight years. 

Greitens became a Seal, and he continues to fight for the forgotten.  For the weak.  I really look forward to shaking his hand in Asheville.

Greitens argues that one must possess both the heart and the fist. In his words... "Without courage, compassion falters. Without compassion, courage has no direction."  (

As I finished the book, I came away with a number of thoughts.  But these three rang loudest.

  1. Choose to make a difference.  There's good and bad out there.  We all have a choice.  To watch. To complain. Or to get involved.  But at the end of the day, it does boil down to a choice that all of us can make.  We all can choose to help others.  Nothing is stopping us. 
  2. We underestimate ourselves, and our brethren.  Sometimes we talk about Michelangelo, or Beethoven, or Einstein, as if they are demi-gods. Not of our planet.  But read this book, and you'll see what a kid from Missouri can do if he simply leans into the world.  If he decides to make a difference.  I wish I had read this book, or a book like it, when I was 16.  We all can do amazing things.  But it does start with choosing to do so.
  3. There is bad.  Sometimes I do fall into the trap of "things will work out."  The Heart and the Fist points out that for many people, things don't.  Through no fault of their own. If you want to help them, sometimes you'll need to stand up for them.  And that is never easy.

If you have a board member or supervisory committee member going to our conference in Asheville, they'll get a copy of Eric's book.  And they'll get to meet this amazing guy.  Ask them to lend you the book when they finish. 

You won't be sorry.