Ever fall on your sword?
Silly question…if you had, in its historic sense, you wouldn’t be reading this…
But maybe you know someone who has…?
If you have been using the idiom like I do – it connotes believing in an idea so fiercely, so passionately that you would do anything – anything – to see it fulfilled. And – funnily enough – it’s usually used to infer what won’t happen – as in: “Some big idea – he won’t fall on his sword for it”; or, “Are you nuts????? Do you think I’d fall on my sword for that?” Rarely have I heard – “Oh my God, what an amazing session – she was ready to fall on her sword to sell her thinking.”
Turns out the original usage was centered around accountability. Predating the Japanese tradition, it was the ultimate expression of assuming liability for a screw up. I imagine if you did it – no one would question the fact that it was your f— up and, by extension, no one else could be blamed – passionate management…if a little final.
In its current usage it’s also about accountability…of sorts. Of sorts I say, because I’m not sure if the stakes are quite the same.
When you think about my example above – “…he won’t fall on his sword for it,” the connotation is that someone won’t take accountability for an idea rather than the older usage denoting accountability for an action (or even an inaction) that had some greater effect in the world – most likely negative.
Now – I’m all about passion – and believe that no idea gets to see the light of day without it – but ideas are, at their best, living, growing things – the best ones don’t stop growing because it’s mine or yours – au contraire – they get better and better as they get shared and built on.
And so the question – would you fall on your sword for your idea?
“To be willing to die for an idea is to set a rather high price on conjecture.” Anatole France
Now – let’s be clear before the stones are thrown – I get that ideas like freedom ignite a different set of passions – I’m not talking about that kind of sacrifice….
The way I see it – we live in a world where the ability to think, to speculate, to imagine – has never been greater and where the reward for success in dreaming has never been bigger.
Let me be clear again – I don’t mean speculation like Jon Corzine – no doubt many would like to see him fall on his sword – and, in fact, a good part of the 99% movement revolves around the notion that no one has yet fallen on their swords in accountability or contrition for economic speculation…your call if you think he/they should.
But as we envision, as we conceive and innovate – it seems to me that Anatole has the right idea.
Be passionate – very passionate – but choose your sword falling wisely….and its corollary – what are you willing to kill for….
“The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.” Nicholas Butler
What’s your view?
By the way, if you should insist on the sword…: