Greater Must Our Courage Be

I’ve been a Shakespeare buff all my life. There weren’t many cultural events in Boise when I was growing up, but we did have the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and my family went every summer.

Two years ago, I was contemplating a major change in my business and feeling hesitant, no, scared, about whether I should move forward. I accompanied my daughter to a photo session and, while I was waiting, noticed a volume of Shakespeare on the photographer’s shelf.

“Okay, universe,” I said. “Who better to advise a writer on direction than the greatest writer who ever lived? I’m going to open this book, and you’re going to direct me toward a line that will tell me what to do.”  I took a deep breath, opened to a page, and pointed to this exact line:  “The greater, therefore, must our courage be.”

It doesn’t get clearer than that. I moved forward on the plan for the business and, though there have been many challenges, I’m glad I did.

My hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  I don’t know how possible that is, but I know that at least once a week I feel scared. And that’s the way I want it. Because I’ve learned that if I take those chances and brave my fears, I discover something every time. I learn that I’m more capable than I thought, that failure is no big deal, that people can handle more than I think they can, etc.

One year I decided to apply Eleanor’s advice to my writing and pen three essays that scared me, mostly because I was afraid of offending my readers or getting pushback on my opinions. I wrote one of them and shared it with my writers group, and that was terrifying. I have not yet written the other two. So, clearly, I am not yet fearless.

But that’s okay. Many people in history have noted that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the willingness to act in spite of it. It’s scary to put our work out there in the world, scary to try to live up to expectations (our own and those of others), scary to quit our jobs to follow our passion, scary to think that we may never achieve our goals, and scary to think we might.

And, like it or not, it’s never gonna stop being scary. So it’s up to us to summon the courage and move forward. No one else can do it for us.