A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in front of a room of people talking about courage.
Courage is a topic that I’ve been interested in for years. It is courage that helps us take action in the face of fear. And I believe that fear is the primary reason that so many people have such disengaging work experiences each day.
Where there is fear, courage is needed. And there’s a whole lot of fear at work.
We are afraid of failing, falling short, or not being quite good enough.
We are afraid of saying the wrong thing or saying the right thing but showing up the wrong person.
We are afraid that our job isn’t stable or that maybe we aren’t being paid enough.
We are afraid of being unpopular or being left.
Thanks to our lizard brain, there’s no shortage of things to be afraid of at work. And when we are afraid, we can’t be fully engaged with our work.
It’s courage that moves us past the fear to find more fulfillment and connection.
Dylan is an extraordinary young man. He made the decision to enlist during his senior year of high school left for boot camp a month after graduation.
The Marine Corps may be the best training organization on the planet. They take young people and transform them in ways that are hard to describe if you haven’t experienced or witnessed it. When you consider what these Marines are being prepared for, it’s hard not to think about courage.
During the thirteen weeks of boot camp, they become equipped in ways that help minimize their fear and build their courage. If you have ever known a Marine, you know that they do not lack in confidence. In fact, they may get offended if you call them a soldier. In their minds, there are soldiers and then there are Marines. They believe that they are the best trained, most effective fighting force in the world. This supreme confidence is built into them as part of their training
Dylan serves as a rifleman in the infantry. He is part of the boots on the ground military force that makes up the front line of any U.S. Military conflict involving ground forces. In the infantry, when you aren’t deployed, you are training for deployment. Prior to his first deployment, one of the training exercises his company completed was an urban combat simulation of the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004.
The simulation was extremely intense. Their mission was to enter and clear, building by building, a small city built to look like an Iraqi city. It is full of trained actors playing the roles of both civilians and hostile militants. Dylan shared that they did not sleep for nearly three days. As he described the experience and how tired he became, he said that his training just took over. He knew what to do without really thinking too much about it. His training made him feel prepared for nearly anything.
And finally, as Marine in the infantry, he is trained to be an expert with his rifle and a variety of other tools designed to help him do his job and to stay safe. In fact, you will rarely see a Marine without their rifle when they are working. That rifle and their skill using it are critical to succeeding and staying alive. Having the right tools is vital to success and survival.
Being a Marine requires courage. And I think we can learn a lot from the Marine Corps about how we can be more courageous by managing and diffusing our fears.
To act more courageously, we can use the same tactics that Marine Corps employs to manage and mitigate our fears.
- Build your confidence. This starts with introspection and self-awareness. Do you know what your strengths are? Do you have a good handle on your own sources of personal power? By understanding and learning to use your strengths, you will begin to feel a greater confidence in any situation.
- Practice and prepare. Much of our fear flows from a feeling of uncertainty. When we aren’t sure what to do or what to say, our fear tells us to do nothing…to play it safe. You can train yourself to diffuse that fear by removing the uncertainty. If you are afraid to speak up in meetings because you aren’t sure what to say, start by writing out what you would want to say in those situations. Then, practice saying it out loud by yourself. Then, practice saying it out loud in front of other people until it feels like second nature. Then, the next time you have the chance to speak up in a meeting, you will know exactly what to say so you will quickly move past your fear.
- Get the right tools. Just as Dylan and the Marines are equipped with their rifles and their skill at using it, you must equip yourself with the right tools to succeed. Perhaps the most powerful tool you can have in finding more courage at work is a powerful network of relationships both inside and outside of your organization. When you don’t know what to do next, you can call on your network for advice. When you are feeling unsure, you can call on your network for encouragement. Make time to build your network so when you need it, you will have it.
You can be more courageous by learning to manage and conquer your fears. The Marines have proven that.
By finding more courage, you can find your way to a more engaging and fulfilling work experience. And, you can make a bigger impact on those around you.