Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles of Courage,” U.S. President John F. Kennedy, wrote eloquently about courage:

“Courage, the universal virtue, is comprehended by us all. For without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived.

“The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.”

Courage is regarded as one of the major human virtues. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerves all rolled into one. It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets people apart from the crowd.

Those stories of heroism are inspiring, but few of us will ever find ourselves in the kind of extraordinary situations that are the stuff of legend.

Consider the words of American poet Maya Angelou: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

The good news is that courage is available to everyone. There are plenty of ways to be courageous in our lives. Doing something for the first time is often a demonstration of courage. Is there someone you know who is being picked on where you can defend that person?

Maybe it’s just standing up for yourself or speaking up. How about asking for a raise or a promotion at work or leaving a job you don’t like and becoming an entrepreneur?

Maybe it’s simply having the courage to take responsibility for your actions – or having the courage to be who you are and to be authentic.

It takes courage to persevere in difficulties when we are tempted to give up. I have never met a successful person who hasn’t had to overcome a little or a lot of adversity. Trying times are no time to quit trying.

One of the greatest challenges in life is doing what people say you can’t. When things seem most bleak, you must have the courage to carry on to success.

The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many people have given up too soon?

More than 5,200 senior managers were asked by Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems to describe the characteristics they most admire in a leader. The top 10 characteristics, as reported in “Management Review” magazine were: honest, competent, forward-looking, inspiring, intelligent, fair-minded, broad-minded, courageous, straightforward and imaginative.

Anyone who has started a business or managed an organization understands the courage required to make decisions and take risks. Taking the easy way out is not an option.

In business, prospects may seem darkest when actually they are about to turn. A little more perseverance, a little more effort, and what seemed a hopeless failure may turn into a glorious success.

But it also takes courage to know when to admit failure and move on to more productive ideas. Walking away from an investment of time and money is a decision many businesses have had to make. That’s not cowardice, it’s courage borne out of wisdom.

Working up the courage to learn how to say that two-letter word – No – can be daunting at first. Do not feel guilty when you need to say no respectfully.

Some people feel like they have to say yes to almost anything they are asked to do. Others just want everyone to like them. They’re afraid if they say no they might cause the person making the request to reject them.

I’m offering a challenge for the New Year: Be the courageous person that you know you can be. I think you’ll discover that demonstrating courage in small acts will enable you to trust your instincts when more difficult situations arise. Make courage an everyday thing, not something reserved for special occasions.

An unlikely hero was being hailed for standing up to an attacker twice his size and asked how he could be so brave.

“I was too scared to run,” he said, “and too dumb to think of anything else.”

But his friends said, “No, you didn’t have time to think. Courage is a natural instinct if you have it.”

Mackay’s Moral:  If a thing is worth having, it’s worth fighting for.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.