“Well, yeah, Lou . . . that’s why I want to pursue it.”
-Herb Brooks, on his goal to beat the 1980 Soviet Olympic Hockey Team.
I’ve been thinking a lot about courage. What is it? Where do we see it consistently, and who really impacts us by their courage?
When we think of the word “courage,” our individual personalities drive the images that come to mind. I’m a former athlete (which means the word “former” is not in my lexicon), so I tend to see film in my head of high profile, elite athletic events where an underdog or injured athlete prevails –roll tape of my favorite movie of all time, Miracle starring Kurt Russell as the legendary Herb Brooks. I love a good underdog sports story, and there is none greater than the 1980 US Olympic hockey team.
Lately, though, I’ve witnessed seemingly small acts of courage that have impacted me more than Herb Brooks clips. When disappointment or our own missteps are met with courage in ordinary life circumstances, character is built, futures are solidified, and relationships are strengthened.
Courage, of course, doesn’t mean the absence of fear, but rather persevering in the presence of fear. It’s answering the question of what to do with or to fear, whether legitimate or irrational, creeping into daily lives. It is the ability to see fear for what it is, and make a choice to move anyway.
In the presence of fear, I have seen courage lately:
-In a woman stricken with Parkinson’s who still serves others anyway she can
-In a girl who leans in to her anxiety and pushes it back, refusing to let it define her
-In a leader who has had his whole professional endeavor upended this season but leads on and motivates those who need his guidance
-In a young man who uses his gifts to engage others and learn new things despite recent disappointment
You may say that these aren’t earth-shattering examples of courage.
But aren’t they?
These examples are not unique to any one person, so we tend to disregard them as “everyday life” and we don’t think of overcoming them as a very big deal.
Yet driving through fear and disappointment to seek and live out one’s purpose in life, despite the boulders of our ordinary, mundane existence, is perhaps the greatest example of a success story that should shatter our “earth.” These are the battles that change lives: children are taught lessons parents have learned, friends are molded by their peers who have struggled and overcome, and employees are mentored by leaders who have persevered and led through difficulty.
You are more likely to be impacted by someone you know courageously confronting a common life challenge than a celebrity overcoming an amazing yet unique situation.
You are more likely to be impacted by someone like my husband, who fought like crazy to overcome fear of school to graduate from Johns Hopkins, than any of the 2014 Nobel Prize winners.
You are more likely to be impacted by the friend who fights back against mental illness than Freud or Jung.
You are more likely to be impacted by a boss who calmly and effectively leads through troubled times than any Fortune 500 CEO who wrote a leadership book.
You are more likely to be impacted by a friend who sees his own worth and uses his gifts to make others feel valued than the greatest motivational speaker in the world.
Celebrity courage is real and inspiring (Herb Brooks)! But the real heroes of your life are in your house right now, or at work, or perhaps no longer with you but their courage left a mark on your heart.
Who is the courageous person in your life right now, right under your nose?