20 Seconds of Courage


“We bought a zoo!”

I recently watched this movie on a flight from Chicago to Seattle.  It was great.  It’s the true story of a man with a teenage son and a young daughter who buys a run down, dilapidated zoo.

He has spent his career as a newspaper writer engaging in unique stories which enable him to pursue his passion for casual adventure.  He pops in and out of adventurous and adrenaline filled scenarios to create great stories, then returns to his suburban life of bliss.  All of this comes crashing down when his beloved wife, the heart, soul and adhesive of his life, is suddenly gone.  He now finds himself unable to deal with the critical adventure of fathering his children – particularly his wounded and angry son – and building a life together.  He is wounded, mourning and feeling completely ill-equipped for life.  He needs a new beginning.  They need a new beginning.  They need something to bring them together as a family.

Enter the idea of moving and buying a new house.  Simple.  However, one thing leads to another and instead of buying a new house in a new neighbourhood, he buys a home on an 18 acre property outside of town and…a zoo.  The adventure begins: leading a staff, caring for animals, healing his heart, reaching out to his son to restore their relationship and heal his son’s heart, helping his young daughter get her happiness back, and pouring lots of money, hard work and emotional energy into saving a dilapidated zoo in need of re-certification in order to welcome paying customers once again.

This new life demands courage on all fronts, every day.  He says something in the movie that was very powerful and caught my attention:  when facing particularly intimidating and fear-filled situations, “…all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…20 seconds of embarrassing bravery…that’s all you need…and something great will come of it.”

In other words, when confronted with situations that cause us to be afraid, we don’t need to be fearless and completely brave – we simply need to choose courage for 20 seconds.  20 seconds will be enough to get you into something that you probably can’t get out of and now have to see it through.

Courage is not a gift.  It’s not an ability.  It’s not a skill.  Courage is a choice.  It is an act of your will.  Fear always precedes courage; therefore, fear is a prerequisite for being courageous.   If you are not afraid, you don’t need courage.  And, if you are not afraid, then you are probably not in an adventure that demands more or you than you realize you have .  If you are afraid and intimidated then you are perfectly positioned to live courageously – you simply need to choose 20 seconds of courage and move forward.

Jump in.   Let go.  Open up.  Reach out.  Hold on.  Don’t stop.  Speak up.  Stand up.  Get up.  Whatever you are facing, choose 20 seconds of courage and go for it.  20 seconds of courage will engage you and get you in the game.

One of the greatest character qualities of successful leaders is courage.  In fact, cowardice prevents us from leading wholeheartedly.  Cowardice is simply giving into fear and not moving forward.  We must take courage in order to lead well and create the positive change we are capable of creating.

Good news though – you can be courageous.  You can take courage.  Anyone can be courageous for 20 seconds – that’s all it takes to get you in the game.  Start encouraging yourself to choose 20 seconds of courage when you feel afraid or intimidated and you will find yourself living more of the adventure that you thirst for.  And, you will become bolder and more courageous than you thought possible.

Go for it – 20 seconds of courage.  You can do that.  And, great things will come of it.

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Leading and Living on Purpose.