Courage

“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.”
– Nelson Mandela

As I continue to write, I’m noticing there is some amount of overlap in the subjects I write on. I suspect this is inevitable. Courage, I believe, is a necessary component for success. I also believe it plays a real role in maintaining determination. And courage is truly necessary when attempting to recover from anything that seems to have overcome your ability to succeed.

Courage is necessary at every step of the journey. Indeed, no endeavor was ever begun without some amount of courage – and certainly no great thing was ever achieved without it. So what is it? Where does it come from? And how do we tend this delicate crop?

Mr. Mandela and many others speak words beyond my experience, but I believe they are correct about the true origin of courage. A man who is fearless in the face of incredible difficulty or risk is not brave; he is a fool. A man who runs toward gunfire laughing all the way is not bold but insane.

It is perfectly reasonable and even logical to experience fear. While action movies and the like try to paint a picture of the fearless hero, this simply isn’t realistic. Fear is nothing more than your mind’s perception that risk exists. When you witness someone being harassed and move to intervene, your mind alerts you that there is a chance you may be harmed. If you dare to chase out after a new career, your brain reminds you immediately that you could fail and lose a great deal. This is good, and this is human.

So, if fear is logical and even necessary, what value is courage?

Courage is how we overcome. It is prudent to recognize that intervening upon an instance of abuse could result in harm to yourself, but inaction will guarantee a victim. In the time you have, you have to make a decision whether the chance to save another is worth the potential damage. If it is, courage is how you push that fear aside and act. Likewise, it’s only practical to warn yourself that leaving a good career behind is a heavy risk. However, if you’ve done the research and decided you want to see your plan through, then courage is how you dare forward.

This leads me to another important point about courage: it has no correlation to a guaranteed outcome. That is, courage requires uncertainty (which creates the requisite fear). If you knew that setting out to apply for a new job today would guarantee you a career you very much desire, then you’d never be afraid and you’d never require courage. This is why we remember the men and women of great courage: they dared in the face of uncertainty.

Here’s the practical takeaway: every time you’re afraid, you have an opportunity to practice courage. And if you don’t manage it this time? Well, there will certainly always be another chance in the future. Fear is a constant and even a necessity, but it is also a teacher for us all. Sometimes we must learn to better respect it and other times we must summon the audacity to push through.

Thank you for your time.

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