Courage is an everyday virtue

Students in a philosophy class were anxiously awaiting the start of their final exam. 
The professor had warned them that it would be one of the most challenging tests they would ever take.
The teacher wrote one question on the board and said, “This is your exam.  You have one hour to complete it.”
One student scribbled something quickly and turned in his exam, casually walking out of the room.  
The other students continued to write furiously as they looked on in disbelief.
The professor chuckled when he looked at the exam and wrote on it “Great job!  100%.”
The question:  “What is courage?”
The student’s answer:  “This is.”

Every day, examples of courage are all around us.  These folks aren’t winning awards, getting their names in the news or resting on their laurels.  They are running businesses and non-profit organizations, working in the trenches to go the extra mile for customers, and volunteering for causes in their communities.  They face challenges and discouragements that threaten their financial and emotional futures.  Yet they persevere.

Maxwell Maltz, author of “Psycho-Cybernetics,” offers this explanation:  “We must have courage to bet on our ideas, to take calculated risks, and to act.  Everyday living requires courage if life is to be effective and bring happiness.” 

Courage is one of the themes of the recently released movie, “Joy,” the story of Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers.  She holds more than 100 patents for her inventions.  She used her life savings and borrowed from family and friends to create the Miracle Mop.  It took two long years of working in supermarkets, talking to shoppers one at a time and working out of her bedroom.  Her kids filled the orders.

             “Whenever you start something new, in business or life, doubt comes easy but courage takes work,” Joy said.

“You must be brave and you must be strong to have the courage to keep going when you do experience the struggles of being an entrepreneur,” she added.  “Even when I was able to move into a real office and have a warehouse, my support team stayed the same.  I think a large part of my success came from my drive to bring something bigger into the world and to show my children that they could also accomplish their dreams, no matter the obstacles.”

More than 25 years ago, I wrote my first book, “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.”  The book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year.  Why?  Because it inspired people to have the courage to take risks and trust their instincts.  The advice I offered then is just as relevant today.

Was I ever afraid that I would fail?  Yes and no.  Yes, because I didn’t want to be embarrassed or disappoint others at whatever I tried.  No, because I had the courage to be confident in my ability to survive failure and celebrate success.   

Dr. Charles Garfield, author of “Peak Performance,” tells the story of a very wealthy man who bought a ranch in Arizona and invited some of his closest associates to see it.  After touring some of the 1,500 acres of mountains and rivers and grasslands, he took everyone to the house.  The swimming pool was huge and full of alligators.  

The rich owner said:  “I value courage more than anything else.  Courage is what made me a billionaire.  In fact, I think that courage is such a powerful virtue that if anybody is courageous enough to jump into that pool, swim through those alligators and make it to the other side, I’ll give them anything they want – my house, my land, my money.”

Of course, everybody laughed at the absurd challenge and proceeded to follow the owner into the house for lunch when they suddenly heard a splash.  Turning around they saw a man swimming for his life across the pool, as the alligators swarmed after him.  After several death-defying seconds, the man made it to the other side, unharmed.  

The rich host was absolutely amazed, but he stuck to his promise.  He said, “You are indeed a man of courage.  What do you want?  You can have anything.”

The swimmer, breathing heavily, looked up at the host and said, “I just want to know one thing – who pushed me into that pool?”

Mackay’s Moral:  It’s advantageous to be courageous. 


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