Thursday, 30 August 2012
By Bangkok Post Business
‘Courage is the first of the human qualities, because it is the one that guarantees all others,” said the Greek philosopher Aristotle. And it’s true, especially when it comes to creativity and innovation. Without courage, no creativity; without courage, no action; without courage, no innovation.
Courage is part of every genius, every creator and every creative business leader. This is the first of three articles on courage _ what it is, why it’s important in creative leadership and how you can develop courage to unleash your creative potential.
What is courage? “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear _ not absence of fear,” said Mark Twain. Doing what needs to be done despite fear is the essence of courage. Acting, even when afraid, is what makes you courageous.
Aristotle saw courage as “the mean between fear and recklessness”. Cowards don’t take action, because they are paralysed by fear, often of things that present no danger. Mark Twain was talking of this when he said: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
On the other hand, reckless people ignore danger and the consequences of their actions. They take unnecessary risks. Courageous people strike a balance between excessive fear and foolish recklessness. In business, being courageous means taking calculated, reasonable risks while avoiding excessive risk. “I was bold but not foolish. I took a risk by starting up an airline. But the odds were good,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, describing the difference between courage and recklessness. “Be bold but don’t gamble.”
Courage can be expressed many different ways:
– When you show physical courage, you risk your physical safety to accomplish a goal. Firefighters entering a burning building display this kind of courage, as did Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they stepped on to the surface of the moon.
– Intellectual courage is needed to discover new knowledge and champion new ideas against the accepted norm. Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus needed intellectual courage to promote their heliocentric view of the universe against church dogma.
– When you stand up for what your beliefs tell you is the right thing to do, you exhibit moral courage, as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela did to fight injustice in their countries. This kind of courage is unfortunately uncommon. As Mark Twain said: “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
– The courage to be great requires you to live up to your own potential. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us,” said Nelson Mandela. The American poet ee cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Why is courage important? Expressing sentiments similar to Aristotle’s, the former British prime minister Winston Churchill said: “Without courage all virtues lose their meaning.” Similarly, the British novelist CS Lewis said: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
Why is courage so important? The American poet Maya Angelou said: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practise any other virtue consistently. You can practise any virtue erratically but nothing consistently without courage.”
Building an independent, unique self that expresses who you are and what you believe and value requires real courage. And living a life full of passion and purpose, striving to realise your potential in the face of possible failure requires real courage. To achieve much, you need to aim high.
– “Courage is a kind of salvation,” said Plato.
– Courage frees your mind from the unreasonable demands of others. “Freedom lies in being bold,” said the American poet Robert Frost.
– Courage allows us to grow as people and reach out for our full potential. “He who moves not forward, goes backward,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And the French-Cuban author Anais Nin said: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Is it more fun to live a big life or a small life? Do you make more impact by aiming high or aiming low?
– Courage allows us to succeed. “It is always the adventurous who accomplish great things,” said the French philosopher Montesquieu. Muhammad Ali said: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
– Courage can even make us lucky. “The more I do, the luckier I get,” said US president Thomas Jefferson, while the Dutch Renaissance humanist and educator Desiderius Erasmus said: “Fortune favours the audacious.”
Conclusion: Becoming a creative business leader requires that you cultivate all types of courage but primarily intellectual courage, moral courage and the courage to be great. Courage is essential to creativity and innovation. In the next column, we will discuss why.
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