Friday, August 25, 2017

3 Bravery Hacks you can do Today

Let’s start with a bit of a disclaimer:
I’m often scared.
Every. Single. Day.

I’m not talking to you from some Ivory Tower of Bravery and even if it existed I don’t think I’d like to be there, it sounds stuffy and not fun. 
As you’ll soon see, it’s not about not feeling scared…

I’ll illustrate the 3 ways to grow your bravery with 3 examples:
Source: IDA
First, Nelson Mandela. Mandela served 27 years of a life sentence for trying to overthrow the white, apartheid South African government. Mandela continued his work from prison pushing every day against the resistance of the entire white world from his jail guards to the top of the government.
I have seen Mandela’s cell and the prison yard where he spent much of his time, stark doesn’t come close to describing it. Mandela slept on a mat for most of those 27 years.  And then he got out and was elected president of South Africa.
Mandela's cell on Robben Island. Credit: Samantha Marx

Nelson Mandela said something very deep. “Bravery is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.”

When I get in a kayak my mouth goes dry and I have to pee. I get really scared. The last time I went kayaking I said this quote over and over to myself. It helped a lot.

Don’t wait until you’re not scared to do something. Not being scared is not a prerequisite for doing brave things in fact if you wait until you are totally confident you might be dead before that happens.

Be scared. Do that thing anyway.

The Chasm
Second, Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indie is trying to find the Holy Grail to save his father’s life and he has to pass a number of tests. The final test finds Indiana next to a sculpture of a lion’s head at a stone doorway which steps out on to a drop of thousands of feet in to a deep chasm. 
The prompt for this test is “Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” (I can hear Sean Connery saying this in my head. So awesome.) Professor Jones Sr. (played by Connery) yells in pain and Indie, with a contorted face expressing obvious terror and preparation for death, takes one step off the ledge…and on to the invisible bridge.

I’m not going to say something silly like there’s always a bridge when you take that first terrifying step because it’s not true. Sometimes you’ll take the step and you will fail and that failure will not be pleasant. Sometimes you have to take that step anyway. 

Just one step. 

Just one step toward your goal, toward something that is important to you.

And if you already took that step then take the next one. I find that sometimes the step I’m most hesitant/afraid to take is the very one that I really need to take.

So pick up your foot, make a terrified face like Indiana Jones, and…

Third and finally, be an idiot. 

I am a particular fan of the new Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp. In one of the final scenes of the movie Alice is standing in front of the Jabberwocky holding the Vorpal Sword and she counts off the six impossible things ending with “I will slay the Jabberwocky.”
One of the particular things I appreciate about this scene is that even though she has the magic sword that the Jabberwocky feels threatened by she still has to do something incredibly brave to cut off the monster’s head.

You and I have that voice that says, “you will not succeed in your business, adventure, relationship, goal, etc. You are totally unrealistic. Why don’t you just not be an idiot? Sit down before you hurt yourself.”
While that voice is sometimes the embodiment of the wisdom that discretion is the better part of valor; on the other hand sometimes we just have to say, “I don’t care if I’m being an idiot, I’m going to do the impossible.”
Sometimes I have to just go for it even when it feels idiotic and impossible. And then when I’m successful I can do the futterwacken, maybe I’ll even do it if I fail...especially if I fail.

Here’s to bravery.

Want to work on your bravery in the face of trauma, challenging relationships, apathy, anything else? Click below and get in touch.


  1. Wonderful! Yep, "...feel the fear and do it anyway." I'd like to add a bit from Natan Scharansky's book "Fear No Evil" and Rebbe Nachman's Sefer Hamidot. They each overcame fears by singing Here's the quote from Rogers and Hammerstein's The King and I Whenever I feel afraid I hold my head erect And whistle a happy tune So no one will suspect I'm afraid ..."

    1. Thank you for your comment and the addition. What an amazing contemporary example of a brave person in Natan Scharansky and certainly a timeless one in Rebbe Nachman.