From a very young age, probably around eight, I knew that the SAS motto was ‘Who Dares Wins!’ As small boys my brother Tony and I were devotees of Commando comics. As a small boy I had fought my way from Normandy to the gates of Berlin in my imagination, had fought my way out of impossible situations and done it all with humility and courage.
As I grew older mottos fascinated me. I soon discovered that many Coats of Arms had a motto at the bottom and significant people in history often quoted them. The scientist Marie Curie said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it!” The World War II fighter pilot who lost his legs – Douglas Bader used the RAF motto, “Through Adversity to the Stars!” Nelson Mandela inspired the South Africa Rugby team with “I am the master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul!” And the Olympic Movement borrowed the words of a simple Dominican priest Henri Didon who in the opening ceremony of a school sports even in 1881 said, “Citius, Altius, Fortius – Communiter!” “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together!”
Live and let live – Just do it – Carpe Diem (Seize the day) – If it is to be it is up to me – This too shall pass – Honour before honours – Let your light shine – Remember your why – Best me always.
Many ‘mottos’ end up being a sentence or a longer phrase. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” “Don’t sweat the small stuff!” “Vision without action is a day dream!” “Eyes on the prize!” “Breathe in courage, breathe out fear!” “Live each day as if it were your last!” “One step at a time!” “Be the change you want to see in the world!”
I love mottos. To me they are a simple compass point. They are a mantra that comes to mind when you are stuck, when facing a brick wall, when all seems lost, when you feel like giving up. The power of a motto is that it ‘kicks in’ when you can’t think anymore, when you are tired or lost. It is simple. But it is real. And it points to a direction. It picks you up – focuses you and helps you find a courage and a strength you think you did not possess.
My life has been so privileged. I have had the honour of walking with so many people and so many of them have invited me into their heart journeys. But often on that journey I have lost confidence. Often I have felt confused. Often I have felt that it was all too much. So as a young Brother I went to one of the elderly Brothers who was a Latin scholar. I asked him, “Stan what is Latin for ‘Dare to love?'” He looked at me and simply said, “Aude Amare!” So over and over again in the midst of my confusion and at times pain a small voice has come from within, “Damien, Aude Amare!”
That small voice has given me courage, helped me get up again, enabled me to take ONE more step, given me hope and reassured me that ultimately – it will be OK. In the dark of night, in the midst of fog, when you are weak or weary – a motto leads you on. A good motto simply is. It is NOT intellectual, it does not lend itself to great philosophy or debate – it just kicks into your heart and weary legs when needed. It, like the compass, points the way. It can’t do the walking for you – nothing can. It can’t be your courage – nothing can. But it can whisper in a way that YOUR heart hears – and that is all that matters. Your motto must be YOU!
Aude Amare – Dare to Love! What is your compass point? What is your motto? Sit still, silence your racing mind, focus your heart and trust what comes. You’ll be surprised – more importantly – you will gain more direction in a world of competing noise and voices, rush and bubble, plastic and fear. Gift yourself with a motto that is uniquely YOU.