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The Practice of Courage

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A martial arts sensei said, “You are always practicing something.  The question is – What are you practicing?”  Darn good question.

Whether we are practicing one-upmanship or cooperation, truth telling or lying, mentoring or self-promotion, fluency in three-letter acronyms or plain speaking, anonymous feedback or face-to-face feedback, our practices have an impact on our careers, our companies, our relationships.

In Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, written during his year in a one-room cabin with few possessions, is this quote.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life that is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

He was talking about the bigger house, and all the stuff we buy that ends up owning us, keeping us awake at night.  Amen to that!

Let’s substitute the word “practice” for “thing.”

The cost of a practice is the amount of life and, ultimately, dollars that must be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

There is a direct link between our practices and our results and in my work with leaders and their teams, the practice that, when it is missing costs us the most, and when it is present makes the greatest difference, is courage.  Backed up with skill.

Courage is a noun that shows up as a verb. It comes from old French corage, from Latin cor, “heart".  We recognize it by what people do.  We do what frightens us, even in the face of perceived or real personal risk. The man who ran into a house that was fully engulfed in flames, to save a neighbor whom he barely knew.  We demonstrate strength in the face of pain or grief. The hiker trapped beneath a boulder, who escaped by cutting off his own arm with a Swiss Army knife.  No anesthetic.

While we recognize courage in once-in-a-lifetime, go-down-in-history heroic deeds, it is far more powerful as a daily practice.  Though you might have run into that burning house, your courage may be failing you where it counts most – in your day-to-day interactions with the people who are central to your success and happiness.

How can you practice more courage every day?


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