Courageous is one of the words we throw out there as if its definition is a given. We see an act of bravery and herald the actor as courageous, only to hear that person dismiss their act as a reaction to a situation, committed without forethought.
So, is being courageous instinctual or an act of mindfulness and reason?
I believe courage is living your truth when it would be easier not to.
I believe courage is mindfully stepping into the unknown with no guarantees that what’s next will be better than what you have now.
I believe courage is looking self-doubt in the eyes with a determined stare that says, “Watch me!”
Courage comes from within the INPowered self, bolstered by the confidence that the difficult next step that crosses the threshold between self-doubt and self-assurance will find solid footing. Then, you can take the next step . . . and the next . . . and the next.
Courage is getting right with yourself so you can offer your best self in the service of the greater good.
Acting out of pure conviction and ideology is not necessarily courageous. Openly questioning the morality and ethics of your convictions or ideology is.
I’m firm about what I believe. I have convictions. I have confidence in my convictions because I have worked hard at understanding why I have them.
I applaud those who stand up for what they believe. Their passion can be inspiring. At the same time, I challenge them to explain why they believe what they believe. If the best they can do is parrot the talking points of some interest group or political hot head, I’m not impressed. But if they can explain the value of their convictions to the greater good, I’m willing to listen . . . and to be courageous enough to admit I have something to learn from them.
Courage is leading a movement, not fronting a mob.
Courage is being a thought leader, not just telling zealots what they want to hear.
Courage is taking any action, no matter how small, that forces you to push the edges of your comfort zone so that what once was an act of courage for you becomes second nature.
Take that step across the threshold from self-doubt to self-assurance.
Just one small courageous step . . .
and you will be more
Geoffrey Canada’s imaginator switched on early in life. Born into a blighted Harlem, Canada wondered why his neighborhood did not look like those he read about where everything was clean and everyone was nice.
He imagined a Harlem where children had a chance to get a quality education in safe, clean neighborhoods. Then, he made it happen over and over again.
Joanna Barsh writes about Canada in her new book, Centered Leadership. She quotes him saying, “When people begin to see a reality, and then live the reality, it begins to change some of that cognitive functioning.”
Canada was honored in 2013 with the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award. Watch his acceptance speech and you will realize why he is INPowered2 LEAD.
Geoffrey Canada is living proof in the power of imagination, leadership, and accountability.
He embodies the definition of the INPowered: one who, of his or her own free will, finds ways to make things better for himself and others.
I first visited Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL in 1972. I was enthralled. Everywhere I looked, Disney magic came to life in the rides, the attractions, the storefronts, and the street characters. I marveled at the imagination of Walt Disney, who conceived of this theme park, its predecessor in California (Disneyland), and all the stories and cartoon characters who had become part of our lives.
Today, the Magic Kingdom of theme parks and resorts spans 42,000 acres in central Florida, where all is brought to life so you can experience it with every sense you have and where nothing is left to the imagination.
My first remembrance of my grandfather’s farm in southwest Oklahoma is 1954, although family photos attest that I had been there as an infant. It spanned 320 acres of river bottomland in Jackson County, OK a mile-and-a-half north of the Red River.
I spent most summers there growing up amid the fields of cotton, maize, wheat, and occasionally corn. My brothers and I played in a red barn we shared with a herd of milk cows and newborn calves that we made friends with, even though we knew most would be missing by the next summer when we returned.
We ran the mesquite forests and followed the trails the cows had stamped into the soil from their single-file trek to and from pastures, the manmade watering holes, Sandy Creek, that cut a lazy channel across the south side of the farm on its way to the Red River, and the red barn surrounded by the gargantuan farm implements that fascinated us and that we could not resist climbing on.
That farm was our adventureland, frontierland, tomorrowland, and fantasyland. We built forts among mesquites, fashioned swords and bows and arrows from string and branches, and found ways to combat and vanquish make believe armies. It was where everything was left to the imagination.
The man, whose name has become synonymous with genius, Albert Einstein, said:
While on a business trip to the Magic Kingdom, I got to meet Mickey up close and personal. (circa ’96)
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand,
while imagination embraces the entire world,
and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Perhaps we have stressed IQ, intelligence quotient, to the point that we have forgotten the value of the “lame-brain idea.” You know, like Walt Disney’s lame-brain idea of Disneyland.
Shouldn’t we also be stressing the other IQ: Imagination Quotient? Imagination is a companion of playfulness. Our workplaces, to be INPowering, must also be places where we can play and explore.
More and more research is showing how imagination and playfulness make us well adjusted and stimulate our intellect. The world of work is equally a world of play where imaginative intellect produces creative new solutions as well as innovative improvements of current technologies and processes.
When both IQs are operating, imagination asks, “What if?,” and intelligence answers, “Here’s how.”
Want to be more INPowered? Vividly imagine the future you want. Make it so real in your mind that you can feel what it’s like to live in that future. Act intentionally. Voila!
Robin Williams is a creative comedic genius for his style of comedy. To me his comedy was a stream of consciousness that poured from a mind in which a lifetime of observations and imaginings were stored, ready to be synthesize in new combination that, I suspect, surprised even Robin.
There will never be another Robin Williams. The tributes from those who knew him best are heart warming and kind. Thankfully, we have his films and clips from his television appearances to remind us and continually entertain us.
But we can learn so much from his comedy and from the way it showed itself.
In my thinking workshops I show participants how to access the right side of the brain where brain cells arrange themselves to allow the most flexible way to connect. The right brain’s job is to synthesize information into new possibilities. I hope the analogy isn’t too crude, but I liken the right brain, and especially Robin’s, to the messy room where nothing gets thrown away. Robin spent a lot of time in his childhood playing alone in a make believe world. I suspect that during this time he packed his mind with imagined stories, characters, and situations that formed the foundation of what we saw as his genius when it had the opportunity to spring forth.
We all have this creative potential. Robin’s showed up in comedy.
Robin gave himself permission to say whatever came to mind. He did not stop to think whether he was being funny or whether he should or should not say something. He did not let the left brain censor or judge the way we often do. He trusted his mind to share with us the mind that was Robin Williams. He gave himself permission to be the clown and to let the clown be him at the same time.
Robin let it flow. He amazed us. And whether we realize it, or not, he taught us that we can allow the creative genius in all of us flourish.
Being authentic is the foundation of INPowered leadership. Being the real deal is the WYSIWIG of leadership qualities. There are so many pretenders around who say they have our interests at heart but are more vested in their own power and success that we are right to be skeptical.
Jesus, himself, faced such scrutiny from none less than John the Baptist, his cousin. John was in prison and sent a messenger asking Jesus if he was the real deal, “Are you the one, or should we look for another?” (Luke 7:19). Jesus sent word back to look at the evidence, not what he said about himself.
When others look at the evidence of your leadership, what do they see?
Do you create collaboration or chaos?
Do you seek solutions or satisfy divisive partisans?
Do you open doors to include or build walls to exclude?
Do you attract followers out of trust or marshal them out of fear and coercion?
Are you another voice in the crowd trying to shout over other pretenders to power, or do you speak with authority and clarity like no one else with a message that speaks to our aspirations?
This blog has been a test of my own authenticity.
All around the gurus are saying if you want to get noticed and make money you have to offer great content with lots of links and “likes.” I agree. But if all I’m doing is repeating everyone else’s content, then I’m not offering my authentic self. I’m reduced to another voice in the crowd, an editor.
My authentic self believes in the inherent goodness of people–a divine spark that is always in us no matter what other forces try to darken it.
We aspire to be INPowered.
So I try to inspire real deal leaders who are able to fan that spark into a flickering flame that grows into a steady flame, then, joins with others to produce a light on the hill that illuminates the countryside.
Authentic leaders show us their heart and soul in what they say and do and leave it to us to take it or leave it. The only poll they need is their conviction.
I’m seeking to encourage that kind of leadership in business, the community, the family, education, religion, and politics–in all walks of life.