Peak Perspectives: Train For Heroism, Shine Your Shoes

December 17, 2020

2020’s been difficult for all of us, so this December Matt Cavanaugh’s turned Peak Perspectives’ microscope on heroes and heroism. This is the third of a five-part series.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit,” the historian Will Durant once paraphrased Aristotle.

One habit does not a hero make, but the right habits can put us on the right path.

My right habit began in June 1998, when on my first day at West Point I was given a pair of black leather shoes, the kind that smell like grandpa’s aftershave.

I shined ‘em every day, sometimes several times a day.

That’s when I learned the underappreciated value of discipline and maintenance.

Figure out what things matter most, and do them daily.

And shoes seem pretty important. They propel us, they support us, they literally are where our rubber meets the road.

Disciplined daily habits provide a protective coat of shine. When you commit to maintain, you’re not afraid to get scuffed up as much, because you know you can always recover and clean back up quickly.

Any expertise in any subject that matters in any walk of life – depends on disciplined repetition. Success is much less about momentary brilliance than habitual grit. Your health, wealth, and wisdom depend on your gritty forbearance. This is the rock upon which personal strength is built. This is the way.

Daily habits build inner strength. Inner strength builds people that protect. Protectors are heroes, as we learned last week.

Next week we’ll take a good look at some real heroes, and why they’re all wearing masks right now.

Be good, be well, be polishing every day and your life will shine. Until next week, no matter what, climb on.


Peak Perspectives is a weekly segment written and voiced by Matt Cavanaugh, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a resident of Manitou Springs, where he lives with his wife and two young children. Through his writing, Cavanaugh explores life in the Pikes Peak region, including the gradients and subtleties of our lives in the shadow of America's Mountain. 

You can find more work by Cavanaugh here.

KRCC's Abigail Beckman manages the "Peak Perspectives" series. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of KRCC or Colorado Public Radio.