"In these markets, everyone's afraid.

"It's your response to the fear that matters most. Are you going to crack up like Howard Dean in 2004? Or detach yourself, analyze and respond like Neil Armstrong in 1969?

"Astronauts, firefighters and soldiers train to respond to moments of duress. The rest of us are left on our own. And in most cases, the results aren't good. We generally underestimate the true dangers arrayed against us, overplaying the dramatically violent outcomes over the more insidious ones. And in times when we lack information, we're prone to imagine the worst, scientists say. We are only as effective as our emotions allow us...

"Neil Armstrong's cool is on vivid display in the wonderful new movie, 'In the Shadow of the Moon,' about the Apollo lunar missions. In one fraught moment, Mr. Armstrong is running low on fuel as he pilots the spacecraft to the moon's surface. The cameras pan to the smoking, sweating wonks in Mission Control. Piped in by radio, Mr. Armstrong's voice sounds unshaken, almost blase.

"His best human trait -- his intellect -- has subdued his most animal one -- his fear.

"That's been the experience of 67-year-old Lewis van Amerongen, formerly of private-equity firm Gibbons, Green, Goodwin & van Amerongen. Having pioneered the buyout business, the firm got bogged down in the now-infamous 'Burning Bed' purchase of Ohio Mattress Co. in the late 1980s. When the junk-bond market collapsed soon afterward, bank First Boston couldn't refinance a $457 million bridge loan and ended up owning most of the company.

"'Each generation has to go through it and has to emotionally experience it,' Mr. van Amerongen said in an interview. 'Without that, it's just an academic exercise.'

"In other words, there is no substitute for having survived other fearful experiences. The best antidote for fear just may be fear itself."

(“The Game: Fear the Roller Coaster? Embrace It.” Dennis K. Berman. Wall Street Journal: September 11, 2007. pg. C.1)

EMOTIONAL MATURITY and strength lie in acting so that our choices drive our feelings, thus not letting our emotions dictate our actions. Courage is making good choices while afraid. If we wait until we are unafraid to act, we will miss the better part.

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