“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Is courage the leap into the unknown or the perseverance and grit to see it through? I think Muhammad Ali would add that courage requires more of us than simply stepping into the ring, it’s taking the punches and standing up again round-after-round. We all have our own ring to step into, filled with work, family, relationships, fitness goals, writing goals, getting-through-the-day goals.
What are we prioritizing and what do we let slip away? Isn’t it just as courageous to say no as it is to say yes to something? Perhaps more so? Which does beg the question: What are we really trying to accomplish in our brief time here?
A long and rewarding career? Wrestling a career from the ground up is a grind, filled with moments of sacrifice and tactics, honor and betrayal, tedium and tenure. How we play it determines just how long and rewarding it turns out to be. Maybe we also prioritize building a strong nest and raising a family. It takes courage simply to have children, especially for the mother, but also courage to stay in the game for the long haul—raising them to be strong advocates for decency and hope.
Just what do we lean into for the long haul? Comfort? Adventure? Can you be comfortable when you seek adventure? Perhaps, but isn’t it a different kind of comfort than the comfort the person who seeks comfort seeks? Every climb requires discomfort. Every leaper must bear the impact of the landing before leaping again. Discomfort is what we pay now for comfort later. Conversely, comfort now tends to make later more discomfortable. We each must pay our dues in life to get to the place we want to be. Life takes time and courage to see it through.
The neighbors through the woods had a large shed built last year during the summer months. My bride and I debated just what they were building as it seemingly took all summer to complete the work. She said that whatever it was, we’d have the big reveal when the leaves dropped in the fall and everything would become obvious. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
It’s worth asking ourselves every time we stand up in our own ring, why am I doing this? For there’s no long-term courage without a compelling purpose. Sometimes the answers are obvious, and sometimes we have to wait for our own big reveal, when the seasons change and the things that were most important all along become apparent. Often, courage is staying the course long enough to find out.