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Courage and Your Career
By Pepper de Callier

Many centuries ago it would have been easy to identify someone of courage.  You would just have to look for people with lots of scars from sword fights, perhaps a few missing teeth from battle and probably a very stern look about them.  The first person who comes to mind for me is Jan Zizka, the 15th century Bohemian military leader who fought under various rulers and who, in 1420 at the age of 60 and blind in one eye, led the Taborites in several important battle victories, even after losing the sight in his other eye.  Now that’s courage! 

Courage comes from conviction and belief in what one is doing, or about to do, and why they are doing it.  It allows, compels at times, people to do things that even amaze themselves when they step back and look at what they have accomplished in what appeared to observers to be a total lack of fear. Today we are presented with a variety of battlefields on which we are called upon to display our courage.  Unfortunately, there still is the traditional battlefield on which brave men and women fight to settle various political, religious and ethnic conflicts.  But there is another, very different type of battlefield, on which many of us find ourselves daily.  It is the battlefield of business in which courage is required of us at times for our own professional survival, but it is always required in order to advance a career.  Let me explain.

Unlike centuries ago, on the battlefields of Jan Zizka, the evidence of battle scars, injuries and courage are not always easy to see when looking at the “career warriors” of the 21st century, but the signs are there along with the valuable lessons learned in the battle.  Most of us know about the pain of losing a sale to a competitor, or experiencing an unsuccessful attempt at trying to land a major client or deal, or not being chosen as the successful candidate for that job or promotion we wanted so much, or, one of the ultimate battlefield injuries, being fired. These experiences, and many others like them, represent a type of scar from doing battle in the world of business. It takes a certain amount of courage for us at times to pull ourselves back together and try again…and again.  This is the type of courage that keeps us going and keeps us moving toward the goal of accomplishment.

There is another kind of courage that will lead you to advancement in your career and your life.  It’s the courage to take intelligent risk—to step outside your comfort zone in order to learn and to grow.  It’s one thing to intellectualize about how you will do something like volunteer to take responsibility for an important project or task, make a presentation or give a speech to an important group, write an article for a trade journal, lead a meeting, or to do what you know is right, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it.

You won’t have to talk to many seasoned leaders in business in order to understand the importance of summoning up your courage to attempt new and challenging things if you want to advance yourself career-wise and become a more valuable, accomplished, recognized, and rewarded professional.  It is a natural emotion to feel fear when we are faced with the very real chance of failing in a very public way, of embarrassing ourselves in front of a group, of not performing to expectations on a critical project and it’s human nature to immediately think of the worst outcome.  But, just as in the days of Jan Zizka, the only difference between the brave and the cowardly was not lack of fear—brave people know fear too, because they understand consequences.  The difference is that the brave forced themselves to move forward, sometimes to take just one step forward, and in doing so—just taking that one step—they give birth to a whole new persona in themselves that then has the strength to take the next step and so on.  This is the foundation of courage and the rewards are commensurate with the bravery required to act.

So, the next time you are presented with a challenge like giving a speech, making an important presentation, leading a meeting, or any of the other challenges one must face on the career battlefield in order to advance, remember this: it’s not easy sometimes to summon the courage needed to act, but it is so much easier to summon courage today than to deal tomorrow with the regret of not acting as you watch your potential begin to disappear, not only in your eyes, but in the eyes of others.

Good luck on your way up!


About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at www.pragueleadershipinstitute.com

*These are reprints from Pepper de Callier‘s newspaper column in Hospodarske noviny.
  


Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By
From beginning September 3rd, 2012, you will be able to start your week with an insight, or new perspective that will help you move closer to your goals as a professional and a personally fulfilling life as one of today’s most respected coaches, authors and leadership authorities, Pepper de Callier, shares his thoughts with you in a short inspirational video of two to four minutes every Monday morning on YouTube in a series titled Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By

 
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