I believe courage is the single most critical ingredient for achieving great things. It is the key to achieving our dreams and aspirations.
Yes, knowledge, experience, credentials, skills and a good plan or strategy are important too. However, I have seen more people fail to achieve their dreams and aspirations because they gave up along the way than people who went all-out all the way and fell short.
Courage comes in many forms, expressions and styles. Sometimes, standing for what we believe and fully expressing ourselves with a loud and assertive voice is an act of courage. But, sometimes, remaining thoughtful and calm in the face of turmoil, or being vulnerable, or listening to other’s views with openness and generosity requires courage too.
Being Courageous is very different than being Fearless. It does not mean we are without fear. In fact, courage is most opportune when we are most afraid. As Nelson Mandela said:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
If anyone knew something about courage, it was Nelson Mandela.
The good news is that we all have the innate ability to be courageous. We have the ability to bring forth courage and live by it every moment and day of our life, no matter what our circumstances are.
What we often seem to underestimate is just how powerful and magical courage really is, so we don’t fully bet on it.
Early in my career when I was struggling with achieving my sales goals, my mentor at the time told me something that impacted my entire life thereafter. He said, “If you do the right thing for long enough eventually you will 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 first principle time and time again in multiple areas of my own life and the lives of others.
If we are willing to be courageous, take a stand for what we want and then start living, acting and behaving consistently with our stand, sooner or later the universe supports and lines up with our stand.
When we avoid taking a stand, we often feel lost, ineffective and uncertain about what direction to pursue, what to work on and how to proceed. We often fall into a waiting mode, hoping that someone else or something external will make things clear for us. We sometimes ask ourselves “what should we do?” as if there is a right answer. Or we compare ourselves to others, looking to emulate or surpass them. This often leaves us chasing “should” dreams that we don’t genuinely feel passionate about.
People often ask me, “How do I know what is right for me and what I should take on?” Alan Kay, ex-Apple fellow, answered this most clearly and powerfully. He said:
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it!”
He meant, we just need to take a stand. Even if we only have a sense of what we want, we should take a stand.
Taking a stand requires Courage. It seems that most people avoid taking a stand because they are afraid of the consequences, not because they have no idea of what they want. They know what they want, but question or doubt their ability and fortune to achieve it.
When we face new or daunting opportunities and/or challenges, we often need to just take one little step at a time. Eleanor Roosevelt gave a very practical and powerful recommendation for how to do that. She said:
“Do one thing every day that scares you!”
This is a great way to practice being courageous. Try this out and see what you discover.
I have written many things about the topic of courage. In fact, this is why I named my blog Leading and Living Courageously. I encourage you to read some of my blogs from the last year. To mention a few: “Be careful what you wish for” and “Empowering quotes about courage.”