Making a beginning. Quitting a job. Confronting a bully. Asking for a raise. Ending a relationship. Starting one. Facing illness. Staring at death. How do we find the courage to live our lives? Where do we find the strength inside us?
We find courage when we welcome our anxieties and fears, and make room for their uneasy presence in us. We must look after them. Like frightened children, they require our attention and care.
We find courage when we can be with our fears and go on. We help others find their courage too when they see the strength in us, and when we are calm in action.
We find courage when we understand what matters most to us: tradition, progress, family, vocation, country, brotherhood and sisterhood, respect, freedom, God, our own immortal souls. We find what matters most not in our extemporizing minds, but in the truth in our hearts, written long ago at our creation, under the stars. It calls to us. We must listen, or invite worse than anything we have to lose.
When we find these truths and acknowledge them, we know what we must risk: our comfort, our health, our safety, ourselves.
I do not believe we can give courage to others, despite what we say. But we can inspire others to find the courage that is already inside them. How? By mastering our fear. By showing them our own heartfelt courage. By putting them in deeper touch with their hearts, and what matters most to them.
Colleagues, friends, guides and spouses perform this role in our lives. Great leaders do it on a larger stage. Volodymyr Zelensky has been showing the world how to inspire a nation to find the courage to fight for its freedom. I think we had forgotten what it means to be led like this.
Whatever you think of her politics (and I didn't think much of them growing up), you must surely agree with this: Margaret Thatcher was a warrior, fierce in battle. (Also: God bless Meryl Streep!).
I worked as head of communications for Ginni Rometty, IBM's CEO from 2012-2020. Ginni is a warrior too.
I played a lot of rugby growing up. It is a full contact sport :) Where do rugby players find the courage to face this Maori war dance and the controlled violence that it telegraphs will follow? In their commitment to each other, as a team. Inside our organizations and companies, the best teams find the same courage.
Here is Shakespeare's Henry V on St Crispin's Day and the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, inspiring his men to risk their lives for victory:
This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.
And here is Kenneth Branagh playing the brave King. (Warning: hammy acting from men in tights ahead.)
I am a guide, truth revealing.
I am a leader, courage inspiring.
I am a brother, brave in battle.
I am a husband, life protecting.
I am a father, fierce with love.