Ben Zoldan in Stories | July 26, 2016 | No Comments

What’s Your Courage Quotient?

When you see something worth changing, do something about it. We talk about disruption, innovation, thinking out of-the-box, but end up returning to normalcy way too often.

Listening to the world yell at each other, shutting down, everyone retreating to their corners, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” I’ve been really hung up on this lately. I’ve felt stuck the last few days.

And I realized there is something big missing from the conversation. I was reminded how hard it is to challenge our own personal status quos. Disrupting the existing state of anything is really, really hard. It takes us into the unknown.
It’s risky, and taking risks makes us feel vulnerable. The world hasn’t made that connection yet, and we need to start talking about it. Taking risks is inextricably linked to vulnerability.

If we’re going to be honest, we got to admit we all struggle here, and we end up playing it safe – normalcy wins out. Even when we know something is deeply wrong, we end up protecting the status quo by rationalizing why we can’t do something about it. We are not in short supply of people playing it safe in the world.


But there’s a different way to look at this:
FEAR <—————————————> COURAGE
Known                                     Unknown
Safe                                         Risk
Phobia                                     Fearlessness
Aversion                                  Confidence
Shame                                     Vulnerability
Status Quo                            Change


These things show up all the time, in everyday situations. A couple weeks ago, my family and I are on an amazing driving trip up the California coast. We end up in Santa Cruz and spend the afternoon at the Boardwalk.

The minute we get there, my oldest daughter, Zoe, beelines to the one ride I would never go on. It looks horrifying; it’s this pendulum that whips you back and forth, and launches you a few stories up in air.

She convinces me to go on, and without thinking, I agree. As we’re in line, I’m watching this thing that I’m about to go on, and I’m freaking out. Right before we get to the front of the line, I tell her I have a stomach ache from something I ate earlier, and its not a good idea for me to go on it. I’m trying to play it cool, but the truth is I was fk’n terrified. So she and my wife go on it and they have a blast.

We then go around the park and I’m able to go on the gentler rides. When we’re ready to leave, we walk by that original ride, and she lays into me; begs me to go on it. And I’m like, “No Way!” And she lays into me even more.

She’s poking and prodding, and I’m retreating away from her at this point because there is no way I’m going on that thing. And then I look over to her, and I realize I’m missing an opportunity to engage with her, in her world. Worse, I started to think how much of a hypocrite I am.

My whole work is about opening up new doors, leaning into our fears, not playing it safe, and so on. And here I am being the biggest hypocrite. Somehow, I mustered up everything I had inside of me, and agreed to go on it with her.

We get into the line, and I’m trembling again. Hyperventilating. It might sound silly to a lot of you, but this is my Achilles heal. I would rather get into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson. Nobody is more scared of heights than me. My legs shake on outside elevators. I have to hold onto the hand rails on escalators, and I can’t look down. I promise you – I was frightened to death waiting in that line.

Now, it’s our turn; we get harnessed in, she’s fired up and I’m paralyzed. The ride starts slowly, and for the first 15 seconds or so, I am just frozen. The only thing working was my voice – and I’m screaming.

But then, I started to breath, and my anxiety gave way to an exhilarating experience. It was wild. Its was so much fun; still scary, but super fun. It wasn’t bad at all. I had built up all this crazy fear in my head.

Zoe and I had a great time together; for that moment, we were so connected because we experienced that together.

But the bigger part is this: I now have some ammunition to use when that fear emerges; that paralyzing feeling that overcomes me and locks me up. And I have an experience that I can draw on that reminds me that we build these fears up in our minds, and doing ain’t so bad..

That experience may seem small to some; it might sound trivial. But it’s not to me. The lesson for me is to be able to acknowledge a feeling, be able to monitor these feelings, and not let fears, insecurities, whatever it might be, paralyze me.

For me, that experience helped me build a muscle -> it increased my CQ: my Courage Quotient. I felt so happy I went on it. The feeling of conquering a fear – even a small one, is amazing. It was empowering, and it spilled into other things after that.

So, when you hear someone say “We have to wait and see…” Or, “We can’t do that here…” Or, “I take risks, but…” And if you find yourself saying those words, listen to where they’re coming from.

We’re in short supply of people willing to take risks. We need to increase our individual, and collective, Courage Quotients. CQ!


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