I believe there is one secret ingredient in each person who is successful in the truest and healthiest sense of the word.
It is not money or wealth. It is not charisma. It is not strategy or execution. It is not brilliance, common sense, reading a library worth of books, credentials, badges, degrees, stories, being the nicest person in the room, cultural relevance, sales-ability or testimonials from others.
While these qualities can definitely get you places, to me they are not the secret ingredient.
The secret ingredient is courage.
I believe courage is the “strategy” that will steer the ship of your soul forward in the right direction when the signs of the season have become bleak, when the wind isn’t blowing and the clouds are covering the stars.
The Dying Know This
Remember the quote I used in this blog post, the one quoting from the top five regrets of the dying? The most powerful line out of that statement for me was this,
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me.” (Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying)
If the dying know that courage was one of the most important qualities they evaluate their life by, I take that pretty seriously.
Stories Reveal This
Think of your favorite stories, those movies or books you gravitate towards watching when you need a boost of life and inspiration. Go ahead and pick one.
Which character do you find most compelling? What is it about who they are, what they do, or what they say that awakens you?
My theory is that no matter how you would answer this question, somewhere along the way this person stepped out in courage to become that kind of person—and that you are drawn to their specific flavor of courage.
One of mine is Braveheart and the character connect heavily with is William Wallace. If you know me well you know that this is not just some cliche “brave” thing either, I deeply resonate with William in bizarrely specific ways.
Even though William could wield a sword with the best of the best and outwit the most powerful king of all of Europe–it is his courage that lights my heart on fire.
William doesn’t just talk the talk. He fights with and for those who didn’t have a voice. He awakens an entire army to fight for their freedom in the midst of the most terrifying circumstances, at the risk of their own death.
But courage won’t always look epic either, like some great and glorious pre-war speech. Most of the time it is in the small and normal details, when very few if any people are looking.
William’s dad dies when he is only a boy. Shortly after he dies he visits William in a dream and imparts his last nugget of wisdom saying, “Your heart is free, have the courage to follow her.” Obviously, William applied this wisdom because later when he called the future King of Scotland out to do the right thing and not compromise when few if any people were looking he said, “Men follow courage, not titles.” William knows that the common people of Scotland were watching their future King of Scotland, watching like a hawk to see if the man would have integrity in the details.
Courage Creates Space for Transformation
Courage has supernatural power because it takes you into the unknown in your life. It reminds you that you are interdependent on people, that you can’t do it alone. It will remind you that you need to sacrificially invest in yourself if you want to grow–reinforcing the truth that you can’t grow without risk.
Courage will put you out in the open seas on days when you would rather be safe in the harbor. But if you let courage have its way with you it will forge something new in you that will one day become automatic, ingrained, so deeply part of you, that one-day others will think you have never struggled.
See, when you step into courage, it seems it gives God space and time to go underneath the hood to tinker with and upgrade parts of your engine—that is your heart. He knows that you need these upgrades if you really want to get where you want to get. When you engage courage you give up the need to control everything and this truly gives God space to do His thing.
And this is why when you really start buckling down and lean into your design, you will find that this is where the war wages for the deepest experience of joy and life you have ever experienced–the enemy of your soul doesn’t want you to get these heart upgrades. So, this is where you hit your walls and where your inner critics show up in your head telling you to back the hell up and stay far away from risk.
By its nature, courage calls us out so it scares us. But this is where we must bring in another component to courage because it isn’t only about being scared, thank God. The second dimension of courage is joy.
I believe most people that stay away from courage do it because they associate it with fear only and no joy. The inner critic wins at this point. Rightfully so, I wouldn’t want to engage daunting change if there was no life or hope in it.
In my coaching I watch a 180-degree shift happen in people when I ask them what it would look like to engage their goals with joy rather than mere discipline. Faces light up, shoulders drop, energy rises in their voice, and then something magical happens–their heads clear up they can see what is going on around them again and they move forward again.
They are able to set sail again and rejoin the adventure of their soul because they are tapping desire or their heart’s design. Joy is the fruit of engaging desire or design. To me, this is the most important component in courage. There is much more I can and will say on this and the other layers of courage, but before I end this post I want to leave you with my overall definition of courage:
Courage is action in the midst of joy + healthy fear
To give this definition its proper time and attention I am going to devote the next few posts on each of these three dimensions of courage: action, joy, and healthy fear.
Oh yeah, one last thing…
Before I end this post I want to alert you to two things: in about a month I am going to be starting a podcast/vlogcast where I interview people who I believe have lived from courage in their design. I want to offer you stories of real people, in the form of video or audio if you are listening on the go, so you can see them, hear their struggles, and hear their victories–hear the courage that got them where they are today.
I am calling the podcast “A Cup of Courage.”
I can’t wait…