Charlie Gilkey on the courage to do your best work

I’m partway through Start Finishing – it’s good so far. Here’s a thought about courage:

There’s an abundance of smart, compassionate people with ideas worth finishing and ample know-how who can’t get momentum on those ideas for the simple reason that their courage is lacking. Courage is more important than talent when it comes to finishing what matters most, for courageous action can build talent, but fear keeps us stuck in the confines of yesterday.

I’m aware that courage conjures heroic stories such as soldiers in battle, firefighters saving people, or people standing up against machines of injustice. For many people, a courageous action is something that ends up on the news or in books and movies.

While it’s true that those are acts of courage and should be commended, typifying larger-than-life heroic actions as courage can too easily mask the everyday courage we need to thrive; it also gives us an easy out.

Ever day that you do you make a choice to do your best work is a day you practice being courageous. Every day that you initiate or participate in a hard conversation or maintain a boundary is a day you practice being courageous. Every day you share your best work with someone is a day you practice being courageous… Of course, it’s also true that every day you punt that hard conversation, avoid your best work, or run from a stuck project is a day you practice cowardice and make it easier to take the cowardly route the next time…

When we properly identify lack of courage as what’s keeping us from doing our best work and thriving, it allows us to ask more powerful and pointed questions about how to go forward… When it comes to our best work, there will always be a chasm between the information we’d like to have and the information we can acquire, for both the inputs and the outputs of our best work are uncertain. Our best work changes us and the world in ways that no present information can capture.

The reality is that your smartest next step is probably your most courageous next step. We don’t need more geniuses; we need more courageous people.

Charlie Gilkey – Start Finishing

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