The Leadership of Braveheart

Best movie ever! I know I know, the history is bad and it is full of Brit bashing. But ya kinna unnerstan! It’s moy arland! Image from IMDB

When this came out I was 23. I was still struggling with depression, still struggling with collage, didn’t know it but was suffering periodic severe bouts of Myalgic encephalomyelitis. And I had been struggling to write a novel for about six years. I was going to call it Ironheart. It was inspired by my readings as a 17 year old. I was inspired by Man in the Iron Mask to have an incredible warrior serving a wicked king. He wins the battle for the king, only to end up dying. At the same time I was also reading Romeo and Juliet, as well as Cyrano de Bergerac. Now I look back I doubt most people could see the connections between these reads and the book I was trying to write, but it made perfect sense to me. I made cruelly slow progress. Sometimes I only wrote a few pages of month, only to rip most of them up, feeling they were worthless and derivative. Slowly the pages piled up, and I finally decided that was what I needed to knuckle down and do. This was my life work. To write Ironheart.

Much I would give to be an artist. Alas, I can barely draw Pac, man. But one day some years back I was working on the book (I sometimes come back to it) and there I saw. Someone had drawn a scene from my mind. My main character from the book faces a storm in one of the scenes, and in my mind’s eye, it looked almost exactly like this. I believe this is Kullervo, the anti-hero of the Finnish national epic The Kalevala. I had to do some digging to find the site again. This image is from Please take some time to visit the site, their art almost perfectly evokes the feel of the poem. And if you have ever been out in a bad blizzard, you know what the man suffers in this image. Oh well, enough of this. Back to my blog.

Anyhow, to make a short story long, I went to see Braveheart on the big screen when it came out. It was beautiful and haunting. The boy’s pain when his father and brother died, the scene where the MacClannough girl gives young Wallace a thistle. When he comes back and woos and wins her when they are both grown. Feelings stirred, memories of loves and ambitions, hopes long buried. And then…

The Sheriff of Lanark, the town Wallace inhabits in the movie, slits Murron’s throat when she “assault” an English soldier who is trying to rape her. This is the pivotal scene, the point of no return of the film. Wallace changes from a peaceful farmer to an avenging warrior. In the scene where he rides up, acting as though he will surrender, the shear deadness in his eyes is almost exactly how I imagined my main character looking after something similar happens in my book.

As Mel Gibson pounds the brains of the his enemies into the dirt, I sit in awe, realizing someone already wrote my book. And did a profoundly better job at it than I would have. I fell in love with the movie, but I realized most of what I had written would have to be rewritten, or everyone would accuse me of stealing from this film.

For me, this was a perfect scene. You take away a man’s best reasons to live, be ready for him to be willing to die. But if he is willing to die, he may also be willing to take you with him…image from

The first thing I did after watching the film was to look William Wallace up. My encyclopedia had very little about him, just enough that I honestly felt the movie might be very accurate. The internet was a new thing back then. There was no Google yet (I can’t remember if yahoo was a thing yet or not). I did look him up but found precious little. So the wannabe historian in me was (at the time) very pleased as well.

But I would now have to drastically alter the book.

I decided I would have to go further back into the story. Write about the childhood of the protagonist, as Braveheart did. And also digging into the history of the people who became his adopted family. I actually had a rough draft when I left my ex wife.

Such a lovely act of defenestration. I know in real life I would be appalled, but watching the movie I found myself loving to hate this villain.

Next post I will discuss less personal topics. I’ll get back to leadership, and discuss the movie in the light of the book The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. I’ll apply their theory that there are five practices essential for excellent leadership. Let’s hope the Tired Blogger hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew.

The iconic inspirational “Freedom” motivational speech of Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace. As a twenty-three-year-old, I so wanted to hear something like this. Wanted to believe that the struggle was worth it. Wanted to believe that the struggle would benefit, not the corporate hacks who run our world, but the friends and family I loved so much. So many ashes since that day. The Q Anon Shaman and the historical inaccuracies of the movie have, in some circles, discredited this work of art. But my blood still pulses when I hear it. I know I’ve failed, I believe now I will not live to see America free again. But if there was something I could do, whether by living or dying, my life would be a cheap price to pay to know my son will live in freedom.


  1. Xman says:

    THIS is a blog series that I cannot wait to read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curtiswselby says:

      You are too kind


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