Bravery is cool. Watch the movies. Listen to war stories. Courage is a trait universally admired.
But bravery is not fun in the moment. Ask any decorated military hero if he made a decision to be brave. He will tell you he were only doing what had to be done.
Courage is celebrated in pop culture, but it is under-appreciated in business. Successful business people are usually defined by their intelligence, leadership, education, persistence and wisdom.
Rarely are they called courageous.
Intelligence allows you to analyze information to make a decision and choose a course of action. Courage enables you to leap forward with that plan even if its execution will be difficult, dangerous or unpopular.
Breaking forth into business is scary. It takes considerable hard work. You can fail and end up in tremendous debt. Worse than that, if you end up at the bottom, you’ll be open to ridicule.
It’s much safer to stay put and not take the risk or make the effort.
I was once sitting at a table with two dozen millionaire business veterans. I told them about the three projects I had: one company that had made all my money and two ventures I’d spent hundreds of thousands on with no return so far.
These savvy, hardened entrepreneurs suggested I stick with my profitable company and dump the other two. Yet I knew how close the two were to making it. I’d put so much into building them and I was not ready to give up.
The smart thing would have been to listen to those wiser and more experienced than me. But I did the courageous thing and ignored them all.
A year later, both companies are healthy and thriving. I stand by my move.
Silicon Valley’s Least Popular
I can’t think of a more courageous businessman than Elon Musk. Everyone loves the man behind Tesla and SpaceX now. To fans of the environment, electric cars, space, rocketry, exploration, business and creativity in general, he’s a hero.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Silicon Valley hated him. He lost friends, partners and the favor of everyone with his exceptionally ambitious plans. Sane, rational people don’t believe you when you say you’re going to change the world.
He was broke, in massive debt, without support and showering at a YMCA. He could have easily abandoned his tremendous goals for sustainable transportation and space exploration. He could have used his brains and education to get an ordinary job and do ordinary things.
But he had the courage to punch through all the obstacles and turn his dreams into reality.
Everybody loves him now. He has his own spaceships.
We all have ambitions. We all have mountains we want to stand on top of. We may even have plans for the climb.
But looking up that jagged slope into the misty unknown is frightening. Will you lace up your boots and begin your ascent, one step at a time?
Intelligence will tell you how to prepare yourself. It will advise you of the dangers. It will tell you what it might feel like at the top, then probably tell you not to do it.
To summit that peak will take more than intelligence. You need courage to start the journey and continue to grind.
What’s the difference between those that do and those that only plan to do it?
The courage to move and keep moving when everything tells you to stop.