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What’s Your Brand of Courage?

What’s Your Brand of Courage?
    Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Starting a business takes courage. You have to do the job of six people at once, deal with income that is variable at best, and non-existent at worst, and face all the other risks that come with walking where most others don’t dare to tread.

    But that’s old news – anyone who’s been doing this for any length of time knows what’s involved, and has chosen to keep on going. So the question is: Why is it so hard? Why is it that in spite of the good days and the successes, there are so many nights that we feel tired and beaten, wondering where our courage has gone?

    The answer is that the courage you need to get started is very different from the courage that you need to keep on going. When you’re just starting out, you need courage that is flashy and fiery – the kind that involves great leaps and inspiring speeches. To keep on going, you need a much less dramatic courage in the face of a far more exhausting reality. This kind of courage is much harder to come by.

    Let’s start by understanding what we’re really talking about…

    Flashy and Fiery: Braveheart Courage

    The first kind of courage is Braveheart Courage, which I’ve named after Mel Gibson’s popular film.

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    This is the kind of courage that you read about in storybooks – the courage to take a stand against great adversity, face the monsters and confront overwhelming odds.

    This is the kind of courage that is called for in the darkest moments with the most at stake, and it takes great strength of character to muster it up and get going.

    But while this courage can get you going, it can’t keep you going over a long stretch of time.

    Braveheart Courage is like gearing up to write a term paper in 24 hours; it’s doable, but you can’t keep that pace going for an entire semester – not just because you’ll get tired and run out of steam, but because an entrepreneur’s journey is more like a four year degree program than one brutal weekend of cramming.

    And the degree program calls for a very different kind of courage…

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    Day after Day: Shawshank Courage

    Shawshank courage is the kind of courage exemplified in the Shawshank Redemption.

    In that film, Tim Robbins’ character is convicted of a crime that he didn’t commit, and sentenced to life in prison. Despite losing everything in his life, his spirit never wavers, and he digs his way to freedom, one spoonful of dirt at a time, over the course decades.

    Braveheart Courage can get you to cannonball dive into a cold ocean, but Shawshank Courage will keep you swimming for hours and hours until you make it to shore. We relate best to examples, so here are some examples Shawshank Courage:

    Now tell me – what kind of courage does an entrepreneur need? And which is harder to cultivate?

    I think it’s Shawshank Courage – but where does it come from?

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    “Courage Doesn’t Always Roar…”

    As difficult as it is, there are many wells from which you can draw strength and courage when you don’t have the strength to take even one more hopeless step.

    You can think of your family, friends, business partners, and community – the faith that they’ve placed in you, and the love and support that they offer.

    You can think of those who struggle even harder than you do, against far greater odds, and with far less to work with than you do.

    You can think of what you’re doing it all for – the goals that you want to achieve, the life that you are working to provide for your family, and the impact that you’re trying to make in the world.

    And if all fails, you think of a quote that has held me in very good stead, from Mary Anne Radmacher, who says that “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”

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    Write it down, and put it up on your wall. You can even get a fancy, framed version if you like.

    The next time you feel that you need a little help trying again tomorrow, read that note, and remember that this is what courage is really about.

    Then say in a quiet voice that you’ll try again tomorrow.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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