Live With Insane Courage

April 1st, 2014

courage breneIn the movie “We Bought A Zoo”, the Dad is talking to his son about starting a conversation with a girl he likes. He says,

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

I like that. Courage creates magic because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, even briefly, to start something important. Push yourself. Make a fool of yourself if necessary. Start something new with insane courage and see where it leads you. Courage is never wasted, because it makes you stronger and leads you somewhere new.

Courage is one of my favorite qualities. So I decided to write about different sorts of people who live with different sorts of courage, to ENcourage ALL of us to be more courageous.

There are so many ways to be courageous. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation just announced it’s 2014 Profile in Courage award winners. This year the award went to former President George H. Bush. This sparked a lot of argument about whether President Bush had lied by promising not to raise taxes, then going ahead and doing just that. Personally I think this is one of the greatest acts of courage, to change your mind based on circumstances, to go against the party line and do what you think is best. In this case, raising taxes may well have ensured the country’s subsequent prosperity. Kudos to President Bush, and kudos to the JFK Library Foundation for enCOURAGEing independent minded courage.

There are other ways of being courageous too. Sometimes silence is courageous (don’t ever forget that one of the world’s most courageous acts, Rosa Parks’ sit-in on the segregated bus, was done in silence). You can be courageous anonymously (courage has nothing to do with limelight or fame- in fact true courage is one of the least egoic of qualities).

Sometimes getting out of bed is an act of courage. Ask someone with depression. Persistence in any form is courageous. As Mary Anne Radmacher said, “Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying: I will try again tomorrow.”

powdermilk biscuits

I’m also interested in whether courage looks different for different personality types. Remember Powdermilk Biscuits on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion?” The fictitious biscuits were advertised during the show with the slogan, ”they give shy people the strength to stand up and do what needs to be done.”

I’ve always liked that. Speaking as a shy person, courage is an important quality to me. I don’t want to speak for ALL shy people, but for me, shyness means that it takes effort to put myself out there. Even after many years in very public roles, it still doesn’t come naturally to stand out in any way. I can easily hide in my cave and hope no one notices. So I take my imaginary buttermilk biscuits and push myself out of the cave, then slink back in at the end of the day to regroup.

Courage has SO many faces and voices. My wife, Meg, is one of the most courageous people I know. Being married to me has taken twenty years of insane courage. But seriously I have watched Meg move to three different countries, and make an amazing life in each new place.

Then there are my kids. They are high on my list when it comes to courage. My oldest stayed in America while the rest of us moved home to Australia this year. He’s about to turn 20, and is very independent, but imagine the courage of sticking with a path you’ve chosen even though it leaves you a world away from your family. My other two kids moved with us, and have been absolute warriors of courage, starting in new schools and doing SO well with such huge change. The courage of all three of them inspires me every day. If I could only use one word to describe my family, it would be COURAGE.

Courage is essential for starting new things. It’s also essential for continuing important things. One of my favorite quotes about courage comes from Bishop Spong. He has given me a lot of great advice over the years but one particular phrase has stayed with me. He said, “When you’ve done a bold thing, don’t tremble at your own audacity.”How powerful and empowering!

Taking an initial authentic step is bold. It takes courage to follow through and not become frightened by the shadow of your own boldness.

What does this look like for you? How are you stepping out in bold ways, and then following through with courage? If you put your own vision for life on trial, would there be enough evidence of courage to convict you, to empower you, to keep you on the path of change and growth.

For me this path has taken me away from my hometown (and now back again), out of the mainstream church with its doubled edged security and into independent spirituality. There have been detractors, doubters and doomsdayers at every step, but an intangible inner power has kept me moving forward. Conviction is part of this power. I have come to realize the truth of Victor Hugo’s words,

No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.

Here is a 10 point courage checklist. I have learnt the importance of these principles the hard way. Remember that you are judge and jury in your own trial. No one else can convict you or make you guilty. It’s all about your own motivation.

  1. Are you being yourself? It’s not your responsibility to please others, and you can’t possibly please everybody. (the authenticity test) Read more here about authenticity.
  2. Is your determination stronger than any doubt? (the commitment test) Read more here about perseverance.
  3. Would you persevere even if it took your whole life to get where you want to be? (the stickability test)
  4. Would you work just as hard if your name wasn’t associated with the idea? (the ego test) Read more here about ego.
  5. Are you open to feedback without being ruled by feedback? (the personal responsibility test) Read more here about personal responsibility.
  6. Will you find a way no matter what obstacles you have to overcome? (the optimism test) Read more here about optimism.
  7. Are you driven more by your own sense of satisfaction than other’s praise? (the intrinsic motivation test)
  8. Are you prepared to take risks to keep your dream alive? (the surrender test) Read more here about surrender.
  9. Are you prepared to sacrifice popularity/fame and fortune to stay true to your dreams? (the priority test)
  10. How creative will you be to find the necessary resources, support and partnerships? (the resourcefulness test)

greatest act of courage

Speak your truth, no matter what needs to be said, no matter if your voice shakes and your knees knock. Follow your path, no matter how it twists and turns, and no matter how lonely it feels. Let your heart lead you through any ache and burn. There is nothing more frustrating than a voice trapped in your throat or a dream trapped in your mind, like a bird stuck inside the house. On the other side of boldness, there is nothing more liberating and magically powerful than a voice or a dream finding its freedom like a bird finally finding its release through an open window. This is the reward that awaits your courage. Your voice, your life, and your vision carry conviction, clarity and commitment. Let them free to do their work.

There is courage in taking action.

There is courage in speaking your truth.

There is courage in changing.

There is courage in questioning the status quo.

There is courage in persisting.

There is courage in pure listening.

There is courage in being accountable.

There is insane courage in taking initiative.

And there is mad courage in following through.

Last words to another warrior of courage, Winston Churchill

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Subscribe to Grapevine Back to Grapevine page

  1. Margaret says:

    Beautifully written with inner truth and authenticity. Never let that inner light fade, as it is a beacon for so many of us.

  2. Roxy says:

    I found the list of questions above insanely meaningful. They were amazing eye-openers into the workings of my own mind. I appreciate how they quite tenderly lead me to become self-aware about my thought processes and actions. Thank you so much for your good heart!

  3. Virginia Urbach says:

    It’s about time that you receive Top 100 Personal Development Blog of 2014.  Well deserved!

  4. jeanne says:

    Excellent!  It gives me the courage to continue going against the grain of power people.  I really have no choice if I am true to myself.