Do you wish you had more courage? People often tell me that courage is more about facing your fears willingly.
The most courageous people I have met in my life never roared… they quietly faced each day. My grandfather Elias S. Mack, Sr. came to this country without an education, money or resources. He did not speak English. No one would hire such a man.
He came through Ellis Island like so many people across America. He hopped on a train to Miami to begin a new life. However, he ran out of money in Columbia, SC. He had to find a way to earn enough money to continue his trek to Florida.
No one would give an uneducated immigrant a job. He went to Jewish merchants in Columbia for help. They offered him dry goods on consignment. He would ride through the midlands of South Carolina in a horse drawn wagon trading clothes for peaches, vegetables, chickens or meat. That led him on a path of being a small businessman with grocery stores and a jewelry store.
I used to think he was entrepreneurial in nature. What’s the truth? No one would hire him. He had the courage to find a way to succeed. He never saw the rain… only the rainbow. Courage for him was to begin the process. That gave him a path to succeed. His wisdom came from the wounds he suffered along the way.
I am reminded of the old expression that ships are safe in harbor… but that is not what ships are for. Courage is not so much an absence of fear. Instead, courage is about the things that are far more important than the things we fear.
Over time, great leaders on any level never stand with the crowd… they lead. They do not necessarily reside at the top of the organization. I know of Marine privates who would give their life for a brother in arms. That’s leadership.
These leaders are people with fears. Courage is not about being afraid. It means not letting fear stop you. One of the great leaders of all time Winston Churchill said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision…” Churchill went on to say, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. It’s also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
It should therefore follow that courage is about perseverance and less about bravery. It is less about winning and more about trying… especially when you know full well that you can lose. History tells us that America rebounded from Pearl Harbor because of perseverance.
It is human nature to seek comfort over change, but rarely do you get both as a package deal. Maya Angelou said “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”
If we hope and pray for an easy life, we will never have the courage to endure a difficult one. Being deeply loved by another gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.
One of my heroes was Coach John Wooden and he said, “Success is never final and failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.”
I got my clock cleaned when I ran for the House of Representatives in 1980 in South Carolina. Of course it hurt, as all defeats should. What did I learn? It is cheaper to buy a politician than it is to be one.
Running for office earned me the privilege of a learning experience. It earned me the right to see failure as forgivable, if you see defeat through the eyes of courage. You will not learn that from a book or from a friend. You must endure failure to appreciate victory.
The one thing I did develop from losing was double vision… the ability to see things how they could be and understanding things as they really are. In my mind, that is what bravery truly is.