Captain obvious alert: Courage is something we take quite seriously at Courageous.
According to Aristotle, courage was considered the very first virtue because it made all other virtues possible. Peter Thiel has stated, “Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.”
Activating courage has helped transform a number of heritage brands that were stuck in the abyss of normalcy into Courage Brands®. Brands like Dominos, Method and Old Spice are just a few revived brands that now have more purpose, meaning and financial success than ever before.
If they can do it, so can any brand open to being helped. In order to be courageous, there first must be a commitment to willingness. As Brene Brown writes, “Every transformational leader has a willingness to be uncomfortable.”
Before I answer that, we need to first go back to the beginning and discuss the way most of us view the word “courage.”
If the definition of courage is to do something that frightens you, then I suppose I am setting out to do just that: giving it a friendlier, new and improved facelift so that more people will harness, recognize and actualize courage in their everyday work lives.
There are three necessary components to the courage story: three constants you need to have in order to recognize courage in real time.
Knowledge, faith, and action are the matchstick, tinder, and wood that work together to fuel courage. It’s the sum of these parts that combine to create a perfectly mixed cocktail that takes the ultimate form of courage.
To begin, courage always starts with knowledge. Since you’re never going to be able to gather all of the universe’s knowledge on a topic, at some point you will have to rely on inner belief, better conveyed as faith. When you build that faith, then, it’s time to do something about it. That’s turning it all into action.
It’s important to note that you need all three levers of knowledge, faith, and action for it to be considered courage. Two of three in any combination is not courageous and how we ended up in this mess in the first place.
Gathering knowledge, building faith, then taking no action is paralysis. We’ve all been in situations where we knew what we needed to do, but for some reason, didn’t pull the trigger. As motivational maverick Grant Cardone perfectly puts it, “Courage comes to those who act, not to those who think, wait, and wonder. The only way to hone this trait is by taking action.”
On the other hand, having faith then taking action without proper knowledge is reckless. It’s jumping out a plane without a parachute. Remember, courage always starts with obtaining wisdom. In the corporate world, it’s about synthesizing available data to come up with insights that help you form intelligent recommendations.
Finally, gathering knowledge then taking action without feeling inner faith in the project – no matter what the difficulties are going to be – is simply too safe. That is status quo. You need to have enough faith that you can overcome any hurdles. If you don’t feel either a little alive or a bit nervous on the inside, in a saturated world full of consumer choices, it just won’t be enough to make your brand rise above the fray.
Acquiring knowledge, building faith, then taking action is courage. The more you build up your knowledge, the more you build up your faith. The more you’re building up faith, the more courageous action you should take.
If we’re going to have a conversation about courage we might as well be having a conversation about the need for change. This shifts us from our definition of courage to our working definition of a Courage Brand:
Courage Brands embrace the realities of change and willingly address daunting business fears by:
What’s behind every thriving Courage Brand? A courageous group of internal believers who confront and address (vs suppress) business fears head on. They are willing to do the right thing — even when it’s hard — for the greater good of propelling the beliefs of their company forward.
All of this is covered in my book, “Return on Courage : A Business Playbook for Courageous Change“. What I’ve learned from my own journey is that a majority of companies: 1) have a hard time unlocking their corporate courage. Those who say they are risk adverse, unbeknownst to them, are courage adverse, and 2) lack the necessary training to make courageous decisions in business. Since we don’t believe courage, deemed a soft skill (like Emotional Intelligence), has a place in the work place, we were never taught to properly activate the skill. Courage can be taught with practice and training.
In business, either you drive change or change drives you. For some, change can destroy you. The remedy to it all can be an injection of corporate courage. When unlocked, courage can be any willing company’s competitive advantage.