Transformational Courage – Part 2

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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 grit and was consistently losing battles to smaller English armies.

When she learned of France’s plight from a soldier fleeing the front, Joan transformed from precocious playmate to quiet contemplative, spending each afternoon in prayer. She was recurrently visited by visions advising her that she had been chosen as God’s vessel to rescue France.

A year later, at the  age of sixteen, she told her family of her visions to lead the military to bring victory to King Charles VII against England. Her intensive meditative mental preparation provided her with a charismatic aura that conveyed her depth of integrity, courage, and commitment.

The next year Joan set out with a few local supporters to meet with the provincial officials. Joan’s confidence led to a commission for her to lead a small group of knights to meet with the King.

As they crossed France, the confidence of Joan’s band of knights infused a patriotic fervor among the citizens of the towns they passed through. However, when they arrived at the castle, Joan’s authority was abruptly challenged by the KIng’s self-serving advisers. Joan deftly out-witted their bureaucratic traps, leaving them with no choice but to provide her an audience with the King.

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

As a poor peasant, Joan had never ridden a horse, handled a weapon, or fought in a battle. But when the time came to act, her mental preparation enabled her to execute a strategic masterpiece. Her unifying vision kindled a synergistic cohesiveness among the French people, army, and King that ignited military success. 

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In crafting effective strategic design, what one omits is as important as what one includes. In Joan’s case, she did not even try to convince the King’s corrupted nobility to support her cause. Twain portrayed Joan as understanding that trying to fix the status quo that profited from France’s dysfunction was futile. 

I believe that Mark Twain said that “Joan” was his most important work because it portrays the immense power of intensive preparation and principled purpose to change the world.  

With a bit of tongue in cheek, the Switch playbook echoes the Joan of Arc plot. The cast includes:

  • The King – Represents the importance of the “best available scientific evidence”,
  • The Corrupted Nobles – The large cast of healthcare’s industrial aristocracy in lockstep with their lobbyists,
  • The Dedicated Armies – The healthcare providers on the front lines caring for patients,
  • The Citizens – Employers and individuals seeking better health at affordable prices,
  • Joan of Arc’s strategic purpose to free France  – Switch Healthcare’s value proposition to employers, and the
  • Victorious Collaborators –  Our healthier and happier members.

The bottom line is principled preparation works.

Tomorrow’s Fix Today™,
Carl Myers, CEO Switch Healthcare

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

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Switch Healthcare designs solutions for self-insured employers.

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