Last year, I crossed a major item off my “bucket list.” I went skydiving! Yes, that is me to the right. The video can be seen here.
The moment I was hanging on to the side of the plane at 13,000 feet and about to step off was the most thrilling, incredible, tense, freaky, and physically terrifying moment of my life. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
When I was young I dealt with many fears: spiders (still don’t like the little freaks), the dark, falling, storms (love them now), failing, being wrong, and being alone to name a few. I had 3 stretches as a child where I went weeks with nightmares every night: one time surrounding storms, one time surrounding demons and demonic creatures, and one time surrounding the end of the world.
I was gripped with fear in so many ways. I hated it. I didn’t want to live in fear. I was very adventurous in some ways, heights never bothered me and I would climb anything. So, I started pushing the envelope in things I did. I took stupid risks and did things that could have and maybe should have killed me. I thought I was controlling my fears, but instead I was just masking them. Risk-taking took the place of courage in my life and I thought that was enough. It was false.
Courage is the ability to do the right thing when it is unpopular. Courage is standing up against injustice. Courage is confronting someone with love. Courage is doing the hard thing because it is what needs to be done. It doesn’t take courage to take chances, it just take selfishness and a lack of thinking. Real courage requires wisdom and discernment.
There is a line in the movie “We Bought A Zoo” where the father tells his son, “Sometimes, all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage… and I promise you, something great will come of it.” (Click here to watch the scene)
Insane courage. Not stupidity. Not foolish risk-taking for the sake of taking risks. Not hiding fear with thrill-seeking. Insane courage. Real. Now. Stepping out and making a fool of yourself courage. Making that decision that you know needs to be made. Having that conversation that you need to have. Starting that business. Reaching out to that person. Making that call. Whatever it is, insane courage is what you need to see great things happen.
Otherwise it leaves doubt. Questions. What ifs. So many people live with the nagging wonderings of missed opportunities, ignored possibilities, and unnecessary regrets.
I can’t tell you how many times in leadership, problems would have been much easier to work through if I had shown the courage I needed to earlier in the process. It always seems in the moment that the consequences are too great to take a chance and act. Usually, the consequences are much worse when we don’t. We trade short-term comfort for long-term pain because we let fear keep us from action. We thwart our own potential and the potential of others because we worry too much about feelings and emotions in the moment instead of seeing the whole picture and what is truly best and right. Sometimes the most compassionate thing we can do in the long-run causes pain right now.
Leadership is hard. Leadership has a great cost to it.
Every leader in history who has accomplished great things had an insane level of courage:
- Martin Luther
- Christopher Columbus
- George Washington
- Abraham Lincoln
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Martin Luther King Jr
- Steve Jobs
- Colin Powell
Just to name a few, because the list could go on and on.
When we know the right thing to do, we need to do it. When we see the decision that must be made, we had better make it. When the conversation needs to be had, its imperative that we initiate. These will always take courage. That is the job of a leader. If you are the one who sees it, then in that case you are the leader and it is your responsibility to act. Even if you don’t hold a title.
To be a good leader takes courage. To be a great leader takes insane courage.