Choosing to be courageous liberates us to achieve more.
Courage should be an everyday event - not necessarily worthy of a bravery award, or even something others would notice. It may be something personal to you.
I'm sometimes down at our local country school for an hour on Fridays, to help with writing and speaking skills. One week I was working with a nine-year old lad who had been 'volunteered' for the district's public speaking competition. There would be competitors from several schools and an audience of about 100. In class, he was speaking so quietly that only the front row heard him. His teacher asked if I could help him project a bit more.
But there was a more important barrier to success: He didn't want to do it. He was telling his teacher that he wouldn't be able to go. I was sure he was terrified.
The next week, he rushed up to me. 'I did it! I went in the competition!'
Did he win? I didn't ask, because that would have masked his real achievement. He had felt the fear and done it anyway. That's courage. That's success and a foundation for more risks and more success.
In business, courage is facing up to challenging conversations with colleagues, a supplier or client.
It's developing a new product or service and seeing how it goes.
Courage is applying for promotion or quitting our current career for something more challenging.
It's willingly taking on a new project or enrolling in a study course, knowing that we could fail.
It's taking the intiative at parties or networking events - introducing ourselves and starting conversations.
It's saying, 'I'll do that' when your team needs someone to speak at a public meeting or to the media.
With courage, we take more opportunities. We fail more often, but overall, the result is more resilience, more success, more confidence - and a more satisfying and even longer life.
Fed up with working from home during the pandemic? Was it daunting to learn how to use Zoom or Microsoft Teams? Is it now more challenging to manage the competing demands of work and family?
Here's another way of looking at the same events.
It's a chance to show how well you can adapt to challenges.
Do it well and you can add it to your list of stories to tell next time you go for promotion or apply for another job.
Treat every challenging experience as an opportunity to add to your collection of stories you can tell in 30 seconds. Keep notes and include the frustrations, the doubts, anxieties so that you can acknowledge them briefly at the beginning of the stories when you tell them. That's being authentic and your ability to overcome those natural feelings is all the more admirable.
Your future interview panel is likely to ask: 'Tell us about a time when you faced a major challenge' or 'Tell us about a time you had to show that you could work independently/gave excellent customer service/managed competing demands'. You get the picture.
It's called 'behavioural event interviewing' and it's based on the idea that past performance predicts future performance. It's very common. Flawed, but common.
Behavioural event interviewing also tests a candidate's ability to remember relevant examples while stressed. Unless you record and prepare your stories, your best responses may be in the car on the way home.
Your technical or academic qualifications may get you the interview, but the stories that prove your so-called soft skills will set you apart from the other candidates.
Take out your CV and add a table with two columns. On the left write the skills you have. On the right, provide the evidence - refer to the stories you can tell (in headline form).
Treat your collection 30 second stories as a reminder for you and an invitation to your interview panel to ask you about them. The day before the interview, prepare to tell more if the interviewers probe - as they should.
Be specific. The panel won't be impressed by bland assurances that you coped well working from home or managed a difficult conversation. The notes you made will help you list the details of what you did, what you said, how adaptable you were. Prepare to paint a verbal picture.
When those interviewers ask, 'Tell us about a time you...', you'll be thinking to yourself, 'Thank you for asking'. It beats a long silence while you search your memory for something to fill it.
Encourage those who report to you to be looking for stories to add to their CVs.
Would you be encouraging them to leave? No. You're encouraging them to stay, to develop their careers while they are with you. That beats leaving early because the work seems overwhelming or unrewarding.
Collecting stories is affirming and gives a sense of purpose to the work we do.