“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” Scott Peck, Author of The Road Less Travelled
This morning I got an email from an editor at O Magazine in New York. “Would I be available for an interview on an article for their June issue?”
I rejigged my schedule. Who wouldn’t, right? Particularly given March is International Women’s Month!
I’m not going to tell you what the article is about. You will just have to buy the June edition of O Magazine and find out for yourself. But I will tell you this: it’s about making courageous choices and the impact they can have on our careers, on our relationships, and on our lives.
There is no subject that I am more passionate about than courage, what it means, and what it takes. Of course the word COURAGE, while resonating strongly for many, is also quite amorphous. I mean, what does it really mean to live courageously?
Courage has many faces, so what it means for one person to be courageous is very different for another. But at the core of courage is a willingness to become vulnerable. Vulnerable to rejection, criticism, failing, social humiliation, to messing up, falling short of the mark or simply to the disappointment that comes when we don’t achieve what we set out toward.
We live in a world that prizes outward signs of success: Lovely homes, nice cars, beautiful clothes, exotic holidays, Tiffany diamonds … the list goes on. But to me the most meaningful marker of success are people who have been willing again and again throughout the course of their lives to keep faith in themselves in the midst of life’s difficulties and disappointments, and who take continual risks toward inspiring goals that make them vulnerable to more of it.
Around the globe today millions of people live in abject poverty. Around the globe today, yes T-O-D-A-Y, thousands of young women are forced into the sex trade. Around the globe today countless unwanted babies are aborted. Around the globe today thousands are mourning the loss of those they love to war, to disease and to malnutrition. Around the globe today, but particularly in the wealthy developed corners of the western world, people are taking their own lives, because they have given up hope that life will ever offer anything for them to make it worth living. Without courageous action on the part of those of us who can influence change, nothing will.
Sometimes courageous risk taking results in monetary gain and social status. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s about giving up a material gain to fulfill a long held calling (like a former client who left a lucrative career in banking to become a High School math teacher). And sometimes affluence and influence has nothing to do with it at all. Like the courage it takes to speak up in a relationship and bare our deepest doubts and vulnerabilities with another human being. Sometimes it about ending a relationship that we have long given up hope will ever fulfill our need for intimacy. Sometimes it’s about rolling up our sleeves and starting out on an audacious new venture that involves risk, hard work and no guarantee of success, but that excites us like nothing else.
It’s the scariest things I’ve done in my life that have ultimately brought me the deepest fulfillment. They haven’t been easy (think four kids, global moves, public speaking, writing a book…). Sometimes I’ve failed outright. Ouch. And numerous times I’ve felt overcome with doubt as failed to see the progress I wanted to see… or at least not on the timeline I assumed I would see it. At those times it’s taken all my courage to simply press on, pick up the phone one more time, or write something that I hope will make a difference… even if just for one person…other than myself.
I don’t know what shape your career, relationships or life is in. Perhaps you are riding high in your career and bearing witness to the value of sheer hard work. Perhaps you are living each day very safely, comfortable but quietly unsettled by a lack of purpose. Or perhaps you are beginning an exciting new job, or business, relationship or endeavor that is demanding you to dig deeper than you’ve done before when it comes to determination, resilience, and a willingness to take risks.
What I do know is this at the foundation of every life well lived is courage. It’s the cornerstone you build your life upon. Courage to question what others have told you is possible. Courage to become vulnerable to loss and love, to heartache and to hurdles. Courage to fail. Courage to dare to be more than who we have been up to now.
Around the globe today millions of people live in abject poverty. Around the globe today, yes TODAY, thousands of young women are forced into the sex trade. Around the globe today countless babies are aborted because their mothers don’t want them. Around the globe today people are mourning the loss of those they love to war, to disease and to malnutrition. Around the globe today, but particularly in the wealthy developed corners of the western world, people are taking their lives, because they have given up hope that life will ever offer anything for them to make it worth living. Without courageous action on the part of those who can influence change, nothing will.
But the biggest problem you have is failing to recognize that your problems, in the bigger scheme of life, are merely opportunities to exercise greater courage.
It is for this reason that I founded Global Courage – to empower people globally to live more courageously. And it is for this reason that I want to challenge you to rethink your problems and reclaim the courage that you are not tapping in to. Yes, I know you have problems. Many of them I suspect. We all do. But the biggest problem you have is failing to recognize that your problems, in the bigger scheme of life, are merely opportunities to exercise greater courage. To dig deeper into yourself, and to challenge those around you to think bigger, to engage in more meaningful conversations and to say “Enough” to policies and practices, beliefs and biases that hold us all back from living the fullest lives we are capable of living, and to create a world with greater equality, opportunity and prosperity for all.
One day, will you look back on your life and wonder if you could have done more with the time and talents, money and resources you had available to you?
What is the one ingredient that will make the vital difference to the answer you came up with?
So whatever it is that might be flicking through your mind right now, pay attention. And then, feel your fear, acknowledge your doubts, then step into action anyway. Fear regret more than failure.
If you need a little inspiration, please take a moment to view this short Courage Movie that I made a few years back. Better still, jump on Amazon and get yourself a copy of my book “Find Your Courage!”