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Courage Isn’t About Being Unafraid

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Sara Bareilles

Do you know this song, Brave? If not (or even if you know it by heart!), click the name to watch the video of Sara performing. I do that when I need to remind myself that bravery is not about being unafraid. Courage is moving forward in the face of fear.

I had my first true experience with courage in my 40s. After a sterling career in publishing, I needed a break. (It was my first attempt at breaking free of Corporate America.) I felt I needed time to think. A long time. So I joined the Peace Corps. Along with 49 mostly 20-somethings, I hopped on a plane for a 2-year adventure. To Papua New Guinea. (Where?) Suffice it to say I repeatedly faced experiences that were way WAY out of my comfort zone. And I thought there was something wrong with me that I was so AFRAID. My boyfriend back stateside kept telling me how much he admired my courage and bravery. “I’m not brave — I’m terrified!” Then he pointed out to me that courage, authentic courage, is doing something despite your fear.

For some reason, too many of us seem to think that we are not supposed to be afraid as we venture into the unknowns of entrepreneurship. We feel must be perfect, and if we aren’t, we become paralyzed by fear. Our culture has had a hand in these phenomena. And how we were nurtured by very well-meaning parents may have further cemented fear of being imperfect, fear of failure. Fear. Failure.

The real secret is that we’re nearly all fearful at some point. And if you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, you had better get very, very good at failing. Moving forward in spite of your fear of failing.

Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx, tells the story of growing up in a very unusual way that prepared her brilliantly for entrepreneurship. Each night at the family dinner table, her dad would ask Sara and her sibs what they had failed at that day. If they said “nothing” he told them that hadn’t been trying hard enough.

You see, it’s not about the failing — it’s about LEARNING from our failures. Fail. Learn. Pivot. Try it again.

Do you get up after you fall off your bicycle with skinned knees? Or do you throw it down and walk away? How you reacted to experiences like that in your childhood will help you understand your capacity for entrepreneurship. I bet you’ve still got a lot of failing/learning in you.

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

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