6 Steps to More Courage

Years ago, Gail and I went to Maui to celebrate our anniversary. On the second day, we took snorkeling lessons. We started in the swimming pool, then progressed to the coral reef next to our hotel. We loved it. It was like swimming in a huge aquarium.

Male rock climber stretching for hold - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/seanrmcdermid, Image #5852903

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/seanrmcdermid

Later that same day, we rented some snorkeling gear and determined that we would venture out on our own. We had discovered a new sport that we could do together.

The next morning we ventured down to the beach. There wasn’t another soul around. It was like a scene from Blue Lagoon—pristine, tranquil, and stunning. We couldn’t wait to get into the water.

As we paddled about in the lagoon, facing down in the water, we were mesmerized by the aquatic life teeming just a few feet below us. We saw brightly colored fish, gently swaying plants, and, of course, the coral reef itself—alive with activity. It was truly a wow experience.

At some point, I decided to lift my head out of the water and look around. I gasped. Caught in a riptide, we had drifted more than a mile out to sea. The shoreline looked impossibly far away. Our hotel—all the hotels—looked like toys in the distance.

I immediately shouted to Gail who, fortunately, was still just a few feet from me. She looked up, saw our predicament, and then looked at me in near-panic. “Oh my gosh. What are we going to do?”

Fortunately, we had a “boogie board” with us, on which we could place shells and other items we hoped to find on the ocean floor. We both grabbed on to it and started paddling for our lives—literally.

We swam for more than an hour. Eventually, as we neared the shore, we stood up in the shallow water. We trudged up to the beach and collapsed in the sand. We were utterly exhausted. We realized just how close we had come to disaster. This was not the outcome we had intended when we innocently slipped into the water that morning.

So much of life is similar to this experience. You start out with one thing in mind and then, without consciously intending to do so, end up in an entirely different location. It is the power of the drift.

Put this into an organizational context for a moment.

We’ve all attended that first Big Vision Meeting. Someone has a dream for something great—a wow product, a service, or event. People are energized. The creative spigot is turned on. The ideas flow. The room is alive with possibility.

But then we come to the second meeting. A few people report on the assignments they were given. Maybe they share a sketch, a proposal, or a demo. It’s not bad; in fact, it’s pretty good. But it just doesn’t quite match up with our expectations. Something is missing.

Everyone is polite. A few even make suggestions. But somewhere deep inside you realize that the dream has taken a hit. It hasn’t died, of course. But it has been dialed back—calibrated to the reality of deadlines, budgets, and limited resources.

At this very moment, you face a decision. Will you take a stand for the original vision or will you—and everyone else in the room—be swept out to sea, drifting along with the current, oblivious to what is happening.

The one thing that will keep this from happening is courage. This is the only thing that gives life to the dream once the initial enthusiasm wears off. In my experience, there are six ways to find the courage you need to swim against the tide and stand for wow:

  1. Take a stand for greatness. Like many important things in life, creating a wow experience begins with making a commitment. You must resolve in your own heart that you will not sell-out or settle. This isn’t necessary for every project, of course. But when you decide that the dream warrants it, you have to take a stand and play full-out.
  2. Connect with the original vision. King Solomon once said, “Without vision the people perish” (see Proverbs 29:18 KJV). This is also true for wow. Before it exists, it is only an idea. The only place it exists is inside your head. Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and once again become present to what it is that you are trying to create.
  3. Remind yourself what is at stake. I have found that the best way to do this is to ask, “Why is this so important?” When I was writing my first book, I had a list of seven reasons why I needed to write the book. I reviewed it every morning before I began writing. It gave the project an almost epic significance, but it kept me going when I wanted to quit.
  4. Listen to your heart. Most of us have spent a lifetime ignoring—or even suppressing—our intuition. I don’t know if this is a product of modern rationalism or American pragmatism. Regardless, I believe intuition is “the map to buried treasure.” It is not infallible but neither is our reason. And, it can point us in the right direction. We need to pay attention to this inner voice.
  5. Speak up. This is he crucial step. You must give voice to your heart and go on the record. If you don’t, who will? You may be the original dream’s last best chance of staying alive. Most people will happily give in, give up, and move on. Most people have more to do than they can get done, so they are reluctant to go through one more iteration to get it right. But if they don’t, they will never get to wow! This is why you can’t afford to remain silent.
  6. Be stubborn. This is perhaps the toughest part of all. We all want to be liked. We don’t want to be “high-maintenance” or unreasonable. But think back on your own history. Aren’t the people you respect the most also the ones who demanded the most from you? You may not have fully appreciated it at the time, but, looking back, their stubborn refusal to settle is what made the difference.

Look, mediocrity is natural. You don’t have to do anything to drift there. It just happens. But if you want to create truly wow experiences, then it is going to require courage. Are you willing to be brave?

Question: What would courage make possible for that big project your are working now?
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  • http://www.thelittlefluffycat.com/ thelittlefluffycat

    This was exactly what I needed this morning. :) Thank you.

  • http://www.thelittlefluffycat.com/ thelittlefluffycat

    This was exactly what I needed this morning. :) Thank you.

  • Mary Graham

    Mike, this is powerful and just exactly what I needed this morning;. You provide hope for the weary and courage for the fainthearted. I find myself in both camps now and then. = ) Wonderful reminders. Thank you. (and Happy Father's Day. Your five daughters are very fortunate and I love that they all know it!)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I mostly just preach to myself. The reach takes care of itself. ;-)

  • Mary Graham

    Mike, this is powerful and just exactly what I needed this morning;. You provide hope for the weary and courage for the fainthearted. I find myself in both camps now and then. = ) Wonderful reminders. Thank you. (and Happy Father's Day. Your five daughters are very fortunate and I love that they all know it!)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I mostly just preach to myself. The reach takes care of itself. ;-)

  • http://www.gabetaviano.com/ Gabe Taviano

    Enjoyed this post. Thanks Michael! We're all unique and our call to be courageous is different from that of everyone else. So much fun to dip into lives through offline and online interaction and pick up pieces here and there to challenge and change us each day.

    I pray that the challenges you might be facing are overcome. Have a great Father's Day, and thanks for sharing in the battle!

  • http://www.gabetaviano.com Gabe Taviano

    Enjoyed this post. Thanks Michael! We’re all unique and our call to be courageous is different from that of everyone else. So much fun to dip into lives through offline and online interaction and pick up pieces here and there to challenge and change us each day.

    I pray that the challenges you might be facing are overcome. Have a great Father’s Day, and thanks for sharing in the battle!

  • Kristy Ensor

    Thanks for writing this post. It's great food for thought. I've been enthusiastically working on a project for over a year now. The project is a magazine called Southeastern Charm. (In fact, don't know if you remember it or not, but I did a telephone interview with you for the publication.) At any rate, I've sadly not been able to launch the magazine on newsstands as I had planned due to the economy and not being able to get a business loan. Personally, I lack the large amount of financial resources it was going to take to get it in print. I reached out to other publishers in hopes of finding someone to partner with…but to no avail. They all seemed positive that I had a good product…just used the economic climate as the culprit. With all that said, I came to a crossroads. I could either let go of the dream and vision God had clearly given me. or I could go a different direction. I chose the latter. So in March 2010, I'm going to launch on ONLINE version of the magazine. Going digital seems to be the way for me to go at this time; however, after reading your article I'm thinking "Am I selling myself short by giving up on the original idea?" I value your opinion Mr. Hyatt. What do you think?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/matthewdbenson matthewdbenson

    Interesting post. Reflecting on my experience with 'wow' ideas, they can make or break depending on whether you obtain the buy-in from key stakeholders to your idea. Identify who is likely to support your idea, and who might be against it (or simply drag their feet) – and understand why. Be open to potentially changing your idea (even if slightly compromising your own hopes for the project) if it is more likely to make it a success (it may even make the idea better).

    Also, understand who has connections that could drive buy-in throughout the team/organization, and target these people early on, for a discussion about their views and interests. It may be necessary to share your idea / build a team to progress the idea, and toughest yet, that team may be most effective if it is heterogenous (even going as far as including people who are not totally aligned to your thinking or way of doing things).

    In my view, great ideas and personal motivation are very important, but not enough to achieve success. Only when you apply true leadership, and have the leverage of other people can you maximize the opportunity.

  • Kristy Ensor

    Thanks for writing this post. It’s great food for thought. I’ve been enthusiastically working on a project for over a year now. The project is a magazine called Southeastern Charm. (In fact, don’t know if you remember it or not, but I did a telephone interview with you for the publication.) At any rate, I’ve sadly not been able to launch the magazine on newsstands as I had planned due to the economy and not being able to get a business loan. Personally, I lack the large amount of financial resources it was going to take to get it in print. I reached out to other publishers in hopes of finding someone to partner with…but to no avail. They all seemed positive that I had a good product…just used the economic climate as the culprit. With all that said, I came to a crossroads. I could either let go of the dream and vision God had clearly given me. or I could go a different direction. I chose the latter. So in March 2010, I’m going to launch on ONLINE version of the magazine. Going digital seems to be the way for me to go at this time; however, after reading your article I’m thinking “Am I selling myself short by giving up on the original idea?” I value your opinion Mr. Hyatt. What do you think?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/matthewdbenson matthewdbenson

    Interesting post. Reflecting on my experience with 'wow' ideas, they can make or break depending on whether you obtain the buy-in from key stakeholders to your idea. Identify who is likely to support your idea, and who might be against it (or simply drag their feet) – and understand why. Be open to potentially changing your idea (even if slightly compromising your own hopes for the project) if it is more likely to make it a success (it may even make the idea better).

    Also, understand who has connections that could drive buy-in throughout the team/organization, and target these people early on, for a discussion about their views and interests. It may be necessary to share your idea / build a team to progress the idea, and toughest yet, that team may be most effective if it is heterogenous (even going as far as including people who are not totally aligned to your thinking or way of doing things).

    In my view, great ideas and personal motivation are very important, but not enough to achieve success. Only when you apply true leadership, and have the leverage of other people can you maximize the opportunity.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/emilysutherland emilysutherland

    Courage is absolutely the one connection we have with "wow" experiences. No question. But it's so easy to forget when we're in the thick of trudging toward the desired outcome. I especially needed to hear your words on intuition. It really is a great guide, but it's easy to talk ourselves into thinking we're crazy when intuition tells us something that goes against the grain.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/emilysutherland emilysutherland

    Courage is absolutely the one connection we have with "wow" experiences. No question. But it's so easy to forget when we're in the thick of trudging toward the desired outcome. I especially needed to hear your words on intuition. It really is a great guide, but it's easy to talk ourselves into thinking we're crazy when intuition tells us something that goes against the grain.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MaureenTA MaureenTA

    Great analogy and awesome words to encourage me today…thx 4 this!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MaureenTA MaureenTA

    Great analogy and awesome words to encourage me today…thx 4 this!

  • harvestworker

    Excellent post.

    Harvestworker–Pat Marcantel

  • harvestworker

    Excellent post.

    Harvestworker–Pat Marcantel

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/CaronGuillo CaronGuillo

    Michael, Thanks for these words of enCOURAGEment. Whether I apply them to my pursuit of a writing career or our family's transition from full time ministry to vocational organic church planting, they are insightful and inspiring. While the first step toward vision is often the biggest, it is on the journey that we grow weary and tend to drift.

  • http://katiaborin.blogspot.com/ Katia Borin

    A very inspiring post. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • http://katiaborin.blogspot.com/ Katia Borin

    A very inspiring post. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/CaronGuillo CaronGuillo

    Michael, Thanks for these words of enCOURAGEment. Whether I apply them to my pursuit of a writing career or our family's transition from full time ministry to vocational organic church planting, they are insightful and inspiring. While the first step toward vision is often the biggest, it is on the journey that we grow weary and tend to drift.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    Your six points tranpose nicely into finding the abundant life that Christ came to bring us. I venture to say that the greatest WOW experience anyone can have is the Father-child relationship with God. If we get that right, everything will eventually fall into place. As Jesus said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." It takes courage to press into becoming all that God wants us to be.

    Courage also demands that we be alert to what is going on around us. Gideon's army had a tremendous WOW experience that benefitted all of Israel. Who were the men that God instructed Gideon to choose? The ones who didn't let their physical need for water keep them from closely watching their surroundings. Do you suppose we might opportunities because we aren't alert?

    Finally, all WOW experiences do not have to be big ones. Whenever I have problems relating to someone, I ask God to give me an opportunity to be kind to that person. God is faithful and those kindness opportunities have changed the tenor of a number of my relationships with others. The satisfaction of seeing people smile at me is definitely a WOW experience.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    Your six points tranpose nicely into finding the abundant life that Christ came to bring us. I venture to say that the greatest WOW experience anyone can have is the Father-child relationship with God. If we get that right, everything will eventually fall into place. As Jesus said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." It takes courage to press into becoming all that God wants us to be.

    Courage also demands that we be alert to what is going on around us. Gideon's army had a tremendous WOW experience that benefitted all of Israel. Who were the men that God instructed Gideon to choose? The ones who didn't let their physical need for water keep them from closely watching their surroundings. Do you suppose we might opportunities because we aren't alert?

    Finally, all WOW experiences do not have to be big ones. Whenever I have problems relating to someone, I ask God to give me an opportunity to be kind to that person. God is faithful and those kindness opportunities have changed the tenor of a number of my relationships with others. The satisfaction of seeing people smile at me is definitely a WOW experience.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MonikaM MonikaM

    Happy Father's Day to ya! Reading this post made me feel light, not heavy. I think I held my breath when I started to read it (and not b/c ya'll were in deep waters:). I thought…shew…o.k. buckle up, more stuff to measure up to…But your question at the end set me free. Why? because THE most effective outcome of practicing courage for me is peace. Courage is not an event but a process to live in. Every process requires energy. When I chose a process, like courage, it results in peace which increases my capacity for more courage. When I chose a process like resisting what I know I need to do, or fear, which shuts me up, the result is peace-less. There is no return for the energy I just invested. So, if I am going to invest energy anyways, it might as well be put into doing the courageous thing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MonikaM MonikaM

    Happy Father's Day to ya! Reading this post made me feel light, not heavy. I think I held my breath when I started to read it (and not b/c ya'll were in deep waters:). I thought…shew…o.k. buckle up, more stuff to measure up to…But your question at the end set me free. Why? because THE most effective outcome of practicing courage for me is peace. Courage is not an event but a process to live in. Every process requires energy. When I chose a process, like courage, it results in peace which increases my capacity for more courage. When I chose a process like resisting what I know I need to do, or fear, which shuts me up, the result is peace-less. There is no return for the energy I just invested. So, if I am going to invest energy anyways, it might as well be put into doing the courageous thing.

  • http://www.wisewomenwrite.com/ Diane Owens

    I loved how you used this powerful story of yours as a metaphor for the steps involved in being courageous. In Firstlight, Sue Monk Kidd says that 'the word 'story' actually means 'to know.'" Your story about snorkeling made me remember and "know" a limitation I have. When I tried snorkeling, I jumped into the ocean but was scared because of the depths into which my legs dangled. I had no courage and jumped back into the boat. Through your story, I recognized my lack of courage to try new things. As writers, fear of trying new things keeps us stuck, keeps from reaching the greatness that God has placed inside each and every one of us. Praying for courage to keep paddling is crucial. Thank you for sharing your story and wise words, Michael.

  • http://www.wisewomenwrite.com/ Diane Owens

    I loved how you used this powerful story of yours as a metaphor for the steps involved in being courageous. In Firstlight, Sue Monk Kidd says that 'the word 'story' actually means 'to know.'" Your story about snorkeling made me remember and "know" a limitation I have. When I tried snorkeling, I jumped into the ocean but was scared because of the depths into which my legs dangled. I had no courage and jumped back into the boat. Through your story, I recognized my lack of courage to try new things. As writers, fear of trying new things keeps us stuck, keeps from reaching the greatness that God has placed inside each and every one of us. Praying for courage to keep paddling is crucial. Thank you for sharing your story and wise words, Michael.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    exactly what i needed to hear.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/human3rror human3rror

    exactly what i needed to hear.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KathyHardee KathyHardee

    Wow. I will print this, review it often, write my list of 7 reasons to write my book, and go! Every thing in this post is an encouragement to me.
    Thank you, Kathy

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KathyHardee KathyHardee

    Wow. I will print this, review it often, write my list of 7 reasons to write my book, and go! Every thing in this post is an encouragement to me.
    Thank you, Kathy

  • Troy

    Great post. Very timely. Always a needed subject to hear and to serve as a reminder.

    Mike, your post also brought to light Tom Ziglar's blog post below. It honors the passing of Amy Jones, a true hero of the faith but more importantly a 38 year old woman who was filled with passion and was courageous in every area of her life. Amy truly exemplified your six points above. In one word, relentless.

    Anyone wanting to read, I promise, you will be inspired and it reinforces Mike's post on being courageous (and passionate) in every area of life. I was fortunate to know Amy and I learned a lot about life through her life.

    http://tomziglar.com/2009/06/17/amy-jones-at-the-

  • Troy

    Great post. Very timely. Always a needed subject to hear and to serve as a reminder.

    Mike, your post also brought to light Tom Ziglar's blog post below. It honors the passing of Amy Jones, a true hero of the faith but more importantly a 38 year old woman who was filled with passion and was courageous in every area of her life. Amy truly exemplified your six points above. In one word, relentless.

    Anyone wanting to read, I promise, you will be inspired and it reinforces Mike's post on being courageous (and passionate) in every area of life. I was fortunate to know Amy and I learned a lot about life through her life.

    http://tomziglar.com/2009/06/17/amy-jones-at-the-

  • http://www.maclakeonline.com/ Mac Lake

    Great encouragement to me today, thanks.

  • http://www.maclakeonline.com/ Mac Lake

    Great encouragement to me today, thanks.

  • http://www.higherlevelgroup.com/danieldecker.html Daniel Decker

    Well said. Very applicable, especially in the organizational context.

    Since courage parallels faith in many ways, for me it's being intentional about believing in what I, sometimes tangibly, cannot see and having the perseverance to see it through until it becomes seen to others. It's moving forward despite opposition because the dream is big enough to demand it.

    On a more personal side…

    Now, knowing what courage is and doing it are two totally separate things. It’s the application that counts. More courage for me would help me get out of my own way and remove the petty distractions that cause me to self-justify why I don't pursue certain things or speak up more when I should. More courage would help me default to what God wants versus what Daniel (me) wants. I like control. I like safety. I like a plan where I can plot out the next steps. God likes submission and trust. He likes it when courage overflows because of that trust and submission to Him. I’m just trying to work on that part more and more each day. :)

  • http://www.higherlevelgroup.com/danieldecker.html Daniel Decker

    Well said. Very applicable, especially in the organizational context.

    Since courage parallels faith in many ways, for me it's being intentional about believing in what I, sometimes tangibly, cannot see and having the perseverance to see it through until it becomes seen to others. It's moving forward despite opposition because the dream is big enough to demand it.

    On a more personal side…

    Now, knowing what courage is and doing it are two totally separate things. It’s the application that counts. More courage for me would help me get out of my own way and remove the petty distractions that cause me to self-justify why I don't pursue certain things or speak up more when I should. More courage would help me default to what God wants versus what Daniel (me) wants. I like control. I like safety. I like a plan where I can plot out the next steps. God likes submission and trust. He likes it when courage overflows because of that trust and submission to Him. I’m just trying to work on that part more and more each day. :)

  • http://www.ranomactsofleadership.com/ Susan Mazza

    Great story and great message.

    The phrase "if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything" comes to mind. Taking a stand for something is what I think can keep us out of the drift or at least help us get back on course when we find we have unknowingly drifted. Being willing to take a stand in the face of resignation and cynicism is truly an act of courage.

  • http://www.ranomactsofleadership.com Susan Mazza

    Great story and great message.

    The phrase "if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything" comes to mind. Taking a stand for something is what I think can keep us out of the drift or at least help us get back on course when we find we have unknowingly drifted. Being willing to take a stand in the face of resignation and cynicism is truly an act of courage.

  • http://www.bjhamrick.com/ BJ Hamrick

    Thank you for sharing this story… I like what you wrote about reconnecting with the vision. This message connected with me today.

  • http://www.bjhamrick.com/ BJ Hamrick

    Thank you for sharing this story… I like what you wrote about reconnecting with the vision. This message connected with me today.

  • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com/ Kimmi

    Your six steps are awesome and your words inspiring… Courage. What the world needs more of.

  • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com/ Kimmi

    Your six steps are awesome and your words inspiring… Courage. What the world needs more of.

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  • Cindy

    Staying true to your vision in the face of obstacles requires courage and faith. Thanks for the reminder today!

  • Cindy

    Staying true to your vision in the face of obstacles requires courage and faith. Thanks for the reminder today!

  • http://www.davidteems.com David Teems

    Inspired post. Even the writing sizzles. Cortez, once he came to the new world, ordered his ships to be burnt. He did this so his men could not turn back or abandon the original plan. It worked. They were quite motivated. Cortez gave himself no option, NONE. That type of resolve necessary for greatness to have any breathing room whatsoever. The great explorers understood it was an all-or-nothing proposition. It is also a matter of deep immovable belief. WOW can be rather slippery. You have to keep a vigilant watch.

    One more thing. You have to quiet your inner Hamlet as well. Sometimes he just talks too much.

    Again, great post. You're in groove.

  • http://fallingonyourface.blogspot.com/ Gary Lundgren

    Fantastic post. Great advice. It’s a lot like filmmaking. Often we’re caught in rip tides and fighting for our lives. Other times, we’re enjoying the adventure. thanks

  • http://daughtersheart.wordpress.com AymieJoi

    Courage keeps me writing for that one person who may need a word of encouragement today, regardless of the number of people the stats page tells me are visiting my blog every day.

  • Candace

    Mike, YESSSSSS! U NUTSHELLED thoroughly such an important thing we deal w daily, something that when courage surfaces, it changes thoroughly the end game!

  • http://www.sowgro.com Todd Miechiels

    Great post! I've been battling with this daily; the battle between fear and faith that is. I find the more I look 'up' instead of within myself, the clearer the path that leads to greatness (instead of mediocrity).

    I recently took a few steps out of the boat with my work and life and have been pretty amazed. Here's the story: http://bit.ly/9MOdkP

  • http://amysorrells.wordpress.com Amy Sorrells

    Wow, this ministered to me today. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.kathyfannon.com Kathy Fannon

    This totally applies to marriage.

  • Amy

    This totally ministered to me today. Thank you so much!!!

  • http://taminprogress.com tam

    this post applies to so many areas of life.

    it was a perfect read at the perfect time.

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  • http://www.CoachDanFoster.com Dan Foster

    Mike, thanks for posting this again today. It was powerful for me and spoke directly to where I am at. Thank you for the encouragement. – Dan