W.H. Murray, the leader of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition that pioneered the path to the top of Mt. Everest, knew something about COURAGE.
He shared his experience in a known quote, which I really love:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
That, the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
As far as I can tell, from many years of experience working with people, as well as from my own life experience, if you want to generate a high level of success at work or in your personal life, courage is always going to be the single most critical ingredient for achieving that.
Courage comes in many forms, expressions and styles. Sometimes standing boldly for what you believe and fully expressing yourself with a loud voice is an act of courage. However, sometimes remaining thoughtful and calm in the face of turmoil or adversity is an act of courage. In other times allowing yourself to be vulnerable and/or to listen to other’s views with openness and generosity requires courage too.
Being ‘courageous‘ is very different than ‘being fearless’. The dictionary defines fearless as: ‘Lacking Fear’. But, if you are courageous it does not mean you lack fear. On the contrary, you need to be most courageous when you are most afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather embracing your fears, no matter how daunting, and behaving in a way that is true to your values and commitments anyways.
The good news is that we all have the innate ability to be courageous. We can bring forth courage and live courageously at any time, no matter what our circumstances are.
What we sometimes seem to forget, however, is just how powerful and magical courage really is. Perhaps that is why we don’t rely and bet on it as much as we could and should when we want to make big things happen.
Early in my career when I was struggling with achieving my sales goals, my mentor at the time told me something that stayed with me my entire life. He said,
“If you do the right thing for long enough you will eventually always get the outcome you want.”
I believed him and it worked. I became the most productive and successful sales leader in the company. I have experienced this principle time and time again in multiple areas of my professional and personal life and I have seen it work in the lives of others too.
If you are willing to be courageous, take a stand for what you want and then stay the course by living, acting and behaving consistently, sooner or later the circumstances will line up with your stance. As W.H. Murray put it in the 3rd paragraph of his quote: Providence will move too.
Yes, you need to believe in yourself and your ability; you need to have faith for this to work. If you stay cynical, negative or sarcastic, the circumstances will prove you right. You know how the saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for!”
When you avoid taking a stand you can easily feel lost, ineffective and uncertain about your direction or pursue, as well as less confident in your ability to achieve what you want. You can more easily fall into a waiting mode, hoping that someone else or something external will clarify things for you. People ask me all the time questions like: “What should I do?” as if there is a right answer. Or they compare themselves to others, looking to imitate or surpass others. Unfortunately, too often I see people pursing “should” goals and dreams that they don’t authentically feel passionate about.
So, if there is no right or wrong answer to the question: “What should I do?” and no one can predict the future, how can you know what direction and goals to pursue?
Alan Kay, ex-Apple fellow answered this question most clearly and powerfully, in my mind. He said:
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”
He meant, you just need to take a stand. Even if you only have a sense of what you want and are committed to, take a stand. Even if you are open to more than one direction and you are undecided, take a stand. Always take a stand, write it down and share it with others who are committed to you.
Taking a stand requires courage. It seems that most people who avoid it do so because they are afraid of the future, not because they have no idea of what they want. They simply question or doubt their ability or chance to achieve it.
Inaction can be deadly when it comes to success or having it all. In order to become confident in, and proficient at the game of courage, you need to practice on a regular basis. Eleanor Roosevelt gave very practical and powerful advice on this. She recommended to:
“Do one thing every day that scares you!”
Courage makes the world go round. It inspires, enables, pushes and reminds us to pursue our dreams and never give up. And, when we remain true to our self, we are always the happiest.