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The Incomplete Guide To Courage

I’ve been on a mission for more than twenty years to discover the secret fast track to personal courage. I’ve been overwhelmed with small bits of success ever since. But I made a mistake.

My Mistake

I’ve been trying to collect, compile and collate a complete catalog of courage. (Alliteration Alarm!) This is a particularly annoying habit. Because the truth is, we don’t need to know everything there is to know. What we need to know is one fast fix to get us through the moment.

This is what has worked for me. I didn’t know everything when I started and still don’t. I don’t have the brainpower to know everything and, if I did, I don’t have the power to remember it all anyway. So, in the spirit of better late than never, I propose a strategy change.

A Better Solution

What I plan is a series of short, quick wins that have helped me through tight spots. My hope is that, together, we will cover the big picture as well.

Thing One

One of the first things I discovered is that courage doesn’t work the way I thought it did. Most of my impressions about courage came from books and movies.

I imagined great deeds of daring-do complete with a sweeping soundscore and special effects. I imagined I would have to jump from or swing on something. It would all lead up to a dramatic and carefully crafted climax where I would be called upon to summon my heretofore undiscovered courage and save the day, whatever that was.

I was certain a leap was somehow involved. Because I’d fallen off things and it hurt.


Imagine my surprise when I found that courage would have to be “summoned” in a lonely, quiet, boring waiting room. Or alone in my bed. Or over soggy breakfast cereal. I never imagined needing courage to make a phone call or submit a job application or fill out my tax return.

Tom Cruise never did such things. In fact, he never seemed to face a problem that couldn’t be solved with a fist or a bullet or a conveniently-placed anti-tank missile. Instead, real-life personal courage seems to always come down to this:

Courage Is A Decision

Specifically, courage is a decision to do the thing you need to do in spite of how you feel. That’s it.

There is no music or audience. There is no popcorn. There’s no climactic ending after which you can go home. There is no applause. But there is a secret.

The Secret

The secret is that it matters. Courage will change your entire life for the better. People are affected. God is watching. Your quiet decisions, and mine, change the world.

Do you hear music?

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