Archie Gates: You are scared, right?
Conrad Vig: Maybe.
Archie Gates: The way it works is, you do the thing you are scared sh!tless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it.
Conrad Vig: That’s a dumb way to work. It should be the other way around.
Archie Gates: I know. That’s the way it works.
It would certainly be easier if it was the other way around. If all of us had this magical stockpile of courage, we could easily do what we were most scared of. Arguably, then, everyone would be living their best, most expansive life. Or at least, attempting to.
But that is not how it works…
We have to take conscious action to overcome danger and face our fears. But even before we decide what action to take, we have to make another fundamental choice. We have to decide whether we allow the experience of risk and fear into our daily lives.
Most of us don’t have to put our lives on the line in battle. We don’t have to showcase courage by doing something heroic. We have the luxury to wake up each morning, feeling generally safe, and go about our days choosing to act in a way that doesn’t put us at risk. We can ignore our fears and avoid going outside our comfort zone.
We don’t really need to be courageous.
Facing your fears means feeling discomfort. It means possible failure. And not everyone wants to feel discomfort. Very few of us, if any, want to risk failure.
I recently came across and watched again the now famous 2005 Stanford University commencement speech by Steve Jobs. The three stories from his life that he shares, about 1) connecting the dots after taking an unconventional path of dropping out of college, 2) having to start over after a very public failure (getting fired from Apple), and 3) his cancer diagnosis, all converge in one powerful underlying message:
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
That is a wonderful, inspiring message. But what if you don’t feel courageous? What if you are terrified of change? What if you don’t want to seem a fool? What if you are struggling to make this harder choice?
“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love,” Jobs says.
Jobs was by any measure fortunate – he found what he loved when he was young. But he was also not immune to self-doubt in the face of rejection and had to overcome many obstacles and failures before he ultimately regained his footing and built a company that is now an icon around the world.
Perhaps Jobs found the winning formula for being and staying bold. Going towards challenges, embracing risk and confronting fear will never be as easy as staying in your comfort zone, at least on the surface. But it is a much easier choice to make when you do it in the service of what you love.