Being told “just be courageous” always reminds me of how ineffective telling a person to calm down is. If it was that easy, you wouldn’t have had to tell me. Recently, I was lucky to be trusted on a person’s journey of finding their voice, their place, and their value in a community. I saw the anxiety and tears behind the scenes during preparation for the event. I felt the fear and doubt about the content and the delivery practice. I quickly realized how I could help the most was consistently reminding them of how badass they were, how important the message was, and how much they have already accomplished. For me, it was clear they had already won before the day even arrived.
Then I got a dose of perspective. You see, I don’t have any fear when it comes to speaking publicly. I never have. I don’t know what that means about me but that’s for a therapist to figure out. I’m sitting in a conference open space setting (where people get to in the moment announce a topic that they want to cover). I see a person walk up to the microphone and note that another person had been waiting and wanted to give space to go first. Instantly, it was clear that this person was nervous. I mean legs not able to walk steady nervous. Within seconds with a small prompt, people were clapping and encouraging. I watched as the words stumbled out of a topic. I watched as the admissions of panic and embarrassment were shared. I watched upon completing the need to instantly sit and stay still for a few minutes. And all I could think was “wow! that’s courage!”.
Somewhere along the line I associated being courageous with doing something new and difficult. But here was something I’ve seen countless people do over many years but I felt like I saw this space for all of its amazing value. For the first time, I saw open space truly encourage and support someone taking steps. I felt all the emotions in that room. I saw humanity in that room.
Selfishly, I thought more about where have I diminished my courageous steps over the years. Turns out, I do it often. Other people have founded a company, other people have written books, etc. Why did I need courage to do things that others have already done…but I was taking courageous steps, I just wasn’t acknowledging them. And by ignoring those steps, I gave my fear more power. Maybe it’s time to eat a little of my own advice…
I’ve taken many courageous steps to co-write Lead without Blame. Yet, there is a fear that is still lingering for me…what if it gets 1-star reviews? But then I remembered Seth Godin’s keynote at Scrum Alliance Gathering. He said “A one-star review just means that it is not for them. You are still now an author and just keep getting better.” So here’s my step, I’m not going to read them. I’m giving myself permission to let go of the part of me that values feedback and actively seeks it…for this instance, for this particular time, for this need. I can courageously step away from needing that validation to focusing on the original goals.
By just giving myself permission to step back, I felt courageous. Turns out steps are not one-directional. You just have to keep moving.
How can you recognize courageous steps?