W.H. Murray, the leader of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition that pioneered the path to the top of Mt. Everest knew something about COURAGE; what it takes, what it produces and what the consequences are of not ‘bringing it.’ He shared his experience:
“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.”
My work is about Encouraging, Empowering, Enabling and Energizing people to generate a high level of success and fulfillment at work and in their lives. And as far as I can tell, courage is THE single most critical ingredient for achieving that.
Courage comes in many forms, expressions and styles. Some times standing for what we believe and fully expressing ourselves with a loud voice is an act of courage. But, sometime remaining thoughtful and peaceful 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. It is not the absence of fear but rather embracing our fears, no matter how daunting, and behaving in a way that is true to our values and commitments anyways.
The good news is that we all have the innate ability to be courageous. We have the ability to generate courage and live by it every moment and day of our life, no matter what our circumstances are. What we sometime seem to forget, however, is just how powerful, magical and full of genius courage really is, so we don’t fully bet on it.
I think M.H. Murray describes this very eloquently in the third paragraph of his quote, especially “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
Early in my career when I was struggling with achieving my sales goals, my mentor at the time told me something that impacted my life. 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 time and time again in multiple areas of my own life and I have seen it in the lives of others, including with my clients.
If we are willing to be courageous, take a stand for what we want and then start living, acting and behaving consistently sooner or later the universe lines up with our stand. It enables us to achieve it, or close thereby. Yes, we need to believe what M.H. Murray says otherwise it won’t work to our advantage. See more about this in my blog “Be Careful What You Wish For,” on March 27.
Where 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 fall into a waiting mode, hoping that someone else or something external will make things clear for us. We sometime 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 we know what is right for us?” “How do we determine what to take on?” and “How do we know what the future will bring?”
Alan Kay, ex-Apple fellow said it most clearly and powerfully. He said:
“The only 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 are committed to, take a stand. Even if we could go ‘either way,’ take a stand. Taking a stand requires Courage. It seems that most people don’t take a stand because they are scared of the future, not because they have no idea of what they want. They do know what they want, but doubt their ability and fortune to really achieve or obtain it.
If you want to become really good at the courage game, you need to practice on a regular basis. Eleanor Roosevelt gave a very practical and powerful recommendation:
“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.