A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Paul Harvey shared the story of Ray Blankenship. One summer morning Blankenship was preparing breakfast when he gazed out the window, and saw a girl being swept away in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. He knew that further downstream, the ditch disappeared into a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert.
Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. The he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. He was able to grab the child’s arm as they tumbled end over end. Despite the rushing waters and the great challenge it presented, Blankenship managed to pull the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock.
Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award was fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.
Courage is an essential trait in leadership. It’s needed on many levels and can make the difference between average leaders and great ones. How you lead, the decisions you make and the respect you earn, in part, is based upon the level of courage you have and how you represent yourself to those around you.
As we knock on the door of 2014 now might be a good time to reflect in order to gain some perspective going forward. The courage you need to lead tomorrow is gained through the wisdom of hindsight. Having the courage to look back will help you as you go forward. Here are four ways to do it.
Courage to celebrate the victories.
Every success you’ve have along the way, large or small, should be celebrated. When you take the time to recognize the hard work and sacrifices your organization has made and the people who helped make it happen it’s a morale builder. Don’t neglect the victories you’ve had. They are the signposts of hard work, sacrifice, determination and commitment. Move forward determined to relive them often. You create a winners mindset when you celebrate like winners.
Courage to learn from your defeats.
You don’t want to get bogged down here, but you do need to learn from your defeats. Learn what you did wrong, what could have been done differently, and what to do better next time. Defeats can serve a purpose if you will face them with the right attitude and with a determination not to repeat them. Did you have some defeats in 2013? Me too. But I’m not going to sulk in defeat, and neither should you. Get up. Dust yourself off. Get moving.
Courage to take new risks.
As you close out the year you do so with the advantage of looking back at your successes and failures in context. Now armed with lessons learned you can chart out a path for the New Year with greater clarity and purpose. What you may need is a fresh infusion of courage to take new risks, branch out of comfort zones that have turned into self-made barriers, and dare to go to new heights. It doesn’t take courage to be mediocre, but it does if you are going to take some risks. Just like Ray Blankenship had to take the plunge into the water to save the girl, you too, may need to take the plunge in 2014 if you are going to accomplish great things.
Courage to start anew.
“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway,” said John Wayne. 2014 is your year to saddle up, face your fears, step out with courage, and dare to become and to achieve your goals. You have a clean slate. Be courageous. Dare to dream and take a risk. This is your moment of courage.
© 2013 Doug Dickerson