Willing Ascenders vs Cautionary Descenders

Throughout the book-writing process for Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change, I encountered a handful of phone calls like this one: It’s just after I remind the chief marketing officer that most of my questions will be about business courage—or the lack of it—that my contact breaks the disappointing news. Counsel from the firm’s internal public relations team has shut down the idea of their interview being used in my book. In almost every scenario, the brands that most Americans would consider not courageous go down just like this. Fear of what I may write rules their roost, and because of that, they pass.

Willing Ascenders vs Cautionary Descenders

Then there was an entirely different group of willing business professionals. These individuals openly shared their stories. They were truthful on the glorious positives and gloomy pitfalls of their business. There is a compelling insight here. Willing Ascenders were open to being interviewed. These people embraced the realities of their yesterday and today and their desire to innovate tomorrow. Cautionary Descenders were the ones who denied interview access. They said a lot by choosing not to say anything. Willing Ascenders courageously played offense to evolve their business forward. Cautionary Descenders were almost always stuck, protecting share, forced into playing defense.

Though I never got the chance to ask, I’ve surmised that for most Cautionary Descenders it’s not that they don’t believe courage has a role in their organizations, it’s that they don’t believe they can convince senior management to consider making the necessary but often brutally hard changes. Throughout this journey, I’ve tried to help you arrive at a more courageous destination. After devoting more than 1,000 days to the topic—interviewing the brave and the brilliant, sponging up topical books by authors who inspire me—what I know for certain is that you’ll never achieve “high risk, high reward” without first realizing that high risk demands high courage.

Courage Decreases the Chance for Personal Regret

I believe it’s not enough to simply look at the world differently. You have to courageously take action to do the world differently. When it comes to doing, persistently do so with knowledge, faith, and intelligent action. Learning courage is not the end. It’s a means to an end. And that end, that outcome, is doing something meaningful. The profound words of Lao-tzu wisely remind us,

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Return on Courage is a book about the power of potential in people. I now know my life goal is not to live as long as I can; it’s to live as fully as I can. The creation of this manuscript catapulted me onto my purposeful quest to help others infectiously act with courage. If I can help a few folks have the courage to pass this book along to their bosses, if I can flip a handful of Cautionary Descenders into Willing Ascenders by igniting a difficult, courageous conversation within the walls of their organizations, then my journey was worth it. Courage is the catalyst for an evolving you. It can help you liberate yourself from the competition and from Fake Believers. Most of all, it can help you liberate yourself from yourself.

Evolving from Transactional to Transformational

Courage can shift you from a transactional business into a transformational one. It can boost you forward not just in your business life but also in your personal life. It can help you maximize your human potential and make the most of your short time on this planet. My hope is that you can benefit from learning how to implement courage into your routine decision-making process and that you will refer back to Return on Courage when you need some useful inspiration that can transform yourself, your team, or your business as you move forward. What will you do with your finite time here? When all is said and done, will you make the world better or simply your world better? If you get it right, it can be both.

Ryan Berman is an author, keynote speaker and the founder of Courageous; a create-the-change company that builds and leads Courage Brands®. Ryan has helped install courage in the stories and culture at Google, Kellogg’s Europe, charity: water, Major League Baseball, Snapchat, Johnson & Johnson, Cereal Partners Worldwide and US Ski & Snowboard. His book ‘Return on Courage’ shows how during these courage deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it. Berman also has his own altruistic Courage Brand called Sock Problems: a sock company that “socks” different problems in the world.

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