Courage is Key, But ….

Courage is Key

Courage is key.  Unless you are a bodhisattva or utterly oblivious, as you move towards your deepest goals and dreams, fear will get in the way.  It’s an odd fact of life.  The more we care about something, oftentimes the more we will get into our own way.  I don’t know what this is the case, but it is so.  It’s the (partial) meaning behind Luke Skywalker’s trek into the “Dark Side Cave” on planet Dagobah.  It’s Joseph Campbell’s cycle of the hero’s journey.  It’s life.  It may be that this process is set up for us to grow and become more conscious through encountering and overcoming challenges.

So, courage is key, and there is no way around this fact.  We have to remember this, and we have to lean into our fears, especially at the beginning of a new venture (dare I call it a quest?).

Steady Effort Wins The Day, Not Reckless Leaps….

However, courage is not everything.  There are other factors to finding success and joy.  Slogging, regular, iterative doing is just as if not more important.  By this I mean, just practicing, performing, executing on whatever it is you care most about.  Why is this the case?  Because courage recedes in the face of action, in the face of mastery, in the face of expertise–and ability grows.  How can you possibly succeed in a given field without ability?  Does ability stem from courage alone?  No.

Let me restate this again in a slightly different formulation, as this is just so important.  In life, flourishing success has much less to do with courageous leaps and much more to do with the drip drip drip of steady effort and the methodical development of crucially valuable skills.  When you know how to do something that people really value, you will be in good shape.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

This is the core message of a thought-provoking book by Cal Newport So Good They Can’t Ignore You.  Newport says passion won’t get you far, but valuable skills will.  Here’s a quasi-summary of the book.  While I believe the author underplays the importance of courage and intuition in leading each and every one of us on the path of greatest joy in life–after all, we aren’t all going to become hard scientists and others with specific, deep technical skills–he elaborates a crucial point.  Courage alone may lead us to make a flying leap, we will try to “grow our angel wings” on the way down, and we may land hard in the ditch, covered by mud.

The way to avoid this scenario is to yes, have courage, take that initiatory step, but combine it with the common sense of daily practice.  Time the leaps of courage to when we already have useful skills and mastery that others value.

So courage is key, and we should celebrate it.  But let’s not forget about mastery, practice, daily effort, appropriate timing, common sense, and keeping a level head……

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