Courage in business can take all kinds of forms, from meeting with your first client to putting your first offering out into the world. Courage is often about firsts.
And it can be about ongoing issues like dealing with client complaints, in a way that is respectful for both you and your client.
Courage requires a certain level of confidence.
Confidence in yourself and your willingness to do what you need to do.
Confidence in your ability to call on resources and support when you need them.
Confidence in a friendly world that will open a space for you and your venture if you only have the courage to put yourself out there.
Every entrepreneur has courage. The very act of creating a business speaks volumes about you and your willingness to be present with yourself, to grow, and to reach out into the world.
Courage, though, can take some surprising forms. On a trip to visit my aunt and uncle in Germany a couple of years ago, my aunt told me a story that I have heard her tell before. This time, though, it had a new element.
In January of 1945, as part of the occupation of Eastern Europe, young women of German heritage were taken from their homes, to be shipped to the Soviet Union to labor camps. My aunt Elisabeth and her friend Kate were among them.
Elisabeth’s own aunt had passed the word about where they were going to be taken, and that they should make any attempt to escape. On hearing this, my aunt’s friend Kate determined that they would find a way. Elisabeth herself, self-described as a more fearful sort, was not so sure.
The first night of their captivity, they met a local man, an official. He agreed to help them. He made a hole in the barbed wire that sealed off their enclosure, and in the middle of the night, they passed through the fence and ran into thigh-deep snow. They cut cross-country, to avoid the roads and the patrols of soldiers, and walked most of the night. They made it back home.
My aunt told me that she would never have had the courage to make her escape on her own. She was afraid of being caught trying to escape, and shot. She said that she would forever be indebted to Kate for having the courage to do what was necessary.
What I thought after I’d heard this version of the story is that my aunt herself was just as much the courageous one. She allowed herself to be convinced about the best course of action. She was open to having her mind changed. She acted in spite of her fear.
Courage doesn’t always have to be about the initiator.
Our culture romanticizes that role and makes the initiator the only agent for change. But those who follow these catalysts are also making decisions for their own lives, just as much as the pioneers. This is why having friends and mentors to support you is so powerful.
Courage takes many forms. Courage can be big, like facing possible death, as my aunt did. And courage can be in little acts of decision, the kind you and I face every day in creating an authentic business.
We all have response-ability for our actions, that is, personal choice. That means that we each have our own acts of courage to applaud and celebrate, even when we have to be convinced to act. Because ultimately, we have summoned up our courage, stepped through our fear, and made the decisions that needed to be made.
So I invite you to take a moment today, right now, and applaud an act of courage, something you did yesterday, or last week, or last month, big or small, that required you to choose to act courageously, and you did.