Transformational Courage – Part 2


2. Principled Preparation

In the first paragraph of his last book, Mark Twain penned: “In all of human history only one person ever held supreme command of the military forces of an entire nation at the age of seventeen.”

With these opening lines of his biographical novel about Joan of Arc, Twain described perhaps the most impressive example in the history of the western world of the immense potential of principled preparation.

Joan was born in 1412, the 4th child of farmers in far Eastern France. She was an engaging child, the ringleader of her siblings and cousins.  At the age of twelve she became acutely aware of France’s uncertain future. After eighty years of war with England, France had lost its gumption, now consistently losing battles she should have won.

This knowledge transformed Joan from precocious playmate to quiet contemplative. She began spending hours each day in prayer. She was visited by recurrent visions advising her that she had been chosen as God’s vessel to rescue France.

A year later, at the  age of sixteen, she advised her family that she had been chosen to lead France against England in support of King Charles VII. She intensified her prayerful meditation, and the depth of her character, integrity, and courage grew.

The next year Joan set out with a few supporters to meet with the government officials of her province. Her confidence in victory led to a commission to lead a small group of knights to petition the King.

As they crossed France, Joan’s combination of grit and consistent message of victory thrilled the group of knights as well as the citizens in the towns they visited. Before getting to meet with Charles, her authority was challenged by the King’s corrupted advisers. Joan gracefully side-stepped their intricate traps. After this the King’s court, obviously outwitted, had no choice but to send Joan on to have an audience with the King.

Charles was thoroughly impressed and quickly appointed Joan as chief commander of his armies. France won its first battle in years, followed by several more in quick succession.

As a poor peasant Joan had never ridden a horse, handled a weapon, or led troops in battle. But when the time came to act, her focused mental preparation enabled her to execute a strategic masterpiece. By solidifying the hopeful passion between the French people, their army, and their King, Joan kindled a synergy that ignited her immediate military success. 


In crafting effective strategic design, what one omits is just as important as what one includes. In Joan’s case, she did not even try to convince the King’s self-serving nobility to support her cause. Rather she was effective because she wisely left them out of the equation. She understood  that trying to fix the parts of the system that were profiting from the dysfunction was futile. 

I believe that Mark Twain wrote that  “Joan” was both his best book and most important work because of his insightful portrayal of the link between  Joan’s depth of principled preparation and the effectiveness of her courage.

With a little tweaking, Joan of Arc’s strategy follows our playbook for healthcare. The cast of characters includes:

  • The King – (played by and representing the importance of the “best available scientific evidence”) 
  • The Corrupted Nobles – (a large cast of unduly self-interested aristocracy from the pharmaceutical, medical device and insurance industries in lockstep with their lobbyists)
  • The Confused Armies – (the healthcare providers on the front lines caring for patients)
  • The Citizens –  (those seeking better health at an affordable price)
  • Joan of Arc’s strategic alignment of the Armies and Citizens  – (Switch Healthcare) – and the
  • Victorious collaborators – (company executives unsatisfied with the healthcare status quo)

The strategic parallels are clear. Principled preparation works.

Tomorrow’s Fix Today™,

 Joan of Arc was painted by Jules Bastien-Lepage in 1879 and hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC)


Switch Healthcare designs solutions for self-insured employers.




First Name
Last Name
0 /

Edition 1 – Solving a Well-Entrenched Problem
Edition 2 – A Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Edition 3 – Best marketing tagline of all time?
Edition 4 – Post-Truth Killed a President
Edition 5 – What’s an employer to do?
Edition 6 – Profiting From the Opioid Epidemic
Edition 7 – The Keys to Unlocking Better Decisions
Edition 8 – When Difficult Things Need to be Done Well
Edition 9 – Fixing Healthcare
Edition 10 – Beware of a Singing Cow
Edition 11 – Wise Reflections
Edition 12 – Warning: Reader Discretion Advised
Edition 13 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 1)
Edition 14 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 2)
Edition 15 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 3)
Edition 16 – Embracing Reality to Improve Healthcare
Edition 17 – Everything I Needed To Know…
Edition 18 – The Eighth Circle of Hell
Edition 19 – So… What’s Our Solution?
Edition 20 – Protecting Integrity as a Core Strategy
Edition 21 – An Unadorned Legacy
Edition 22 – Time to Grow Up
Edition 23 – Against All Odds
Edition 24 – When Everyone Has Stopped Listening
Edition 25 – Focusing on What’s Important
Edition 26 – Don’t Give Up Your Shot
Edition 27 – Join the Goodhood
Edition 28 – Fixing Healthcare (Recycled)
Edition 29 – Taming the Healthcare Beast
Edition 30 – Leadership
Edition 31 – Better Health Requires Good Sense
Edition 32 – Little Decisions With Big Consequences
Edition 33 – Transformational Courage
Edition 34 – Transformational Courage – Part 2
Guest Post – Happy Thanksgiving! By Jeff Novick, RD
Edition 35 – Transformational Courage – Part 3