The Top 10 Blockers To Courage

The courage to listen, the courage to think differently, the courage to believe in something, the courage to take action, the courage to endure difficulty, the courage to face oneself, and the courage to enact new learnings.

This article first appeared on The Good Men Project.

Maybe you’re just like me. Maybe you came across Joseph Campbell’s work years ago and were taken by it. Maybe you saw an old grainy video of him speaking at The Esalen Institute or at some resort in Hawaii. Maybe you thought to yourself, “The concept of the Hero’s Journey speaks to me on so many levels of my life, personally, professionally, and financially.” Maybe you watched his many videos, read his many books, and attended many seminars about the Campbell material as possible. And maybe you walked away drawing the same conclusion as I did.

Conclusion: This is magical material… but how do I use it in my life?

Without going into needless detail, I accessed as much source material as I could — including videos, books, and seminars — and I walked away less confident about using the material than before I started. I couldn’t seem to find a bridge between the theoretical and the practical. After one workshop in particular, I thought of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s experience in the early days of Apple, in which they visited Xerox PARC in Silicon Valley. The people at Xerox PARC had created incredible, game-changing computer hardware and software, including the graphical user interface (GUI) and the mouse, yet the headquarters in New York didn’t know what to do with these inventions. The Silicon Valley folks were on an island doing great work that most others didn’t take the time to understand or appreciate. But Jobs and Wozniak immediately knew that these inventions were game-changers to the world of personal computing. The GUI and mouse could transform a personal computer from an engineer’s sandbox to regular person’s daily tool. And how right they were. The Apple team negotiated a licensing agreement, and the rest is history.

I believe that I can be part of the movement that completes the same task, but this time regarding Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey concept.

The temptation I have right now is to launch into an extended explanation of what the Hero’s Journey is and how it came into existence. This is exactly the wrong way to present it. It’s the way I’ve seen it presented dozen’s of times in the past — and I know that I would immediately lose 90% of you in the first paragraph. Your job is not to become a cultural anthropologist. Your job is to learn, reflect, and take action.

So let’s focus on that.

I believe that the defining principle of the Hero’s Journey is COURAGE. This includes the courage to listen, courage to think differently, courage to believe in something, courage to take action, courage to endure difficulty, courage to face oneself, and courage to enact new learnings.

I believe so fully in this courage principle that I decided to name my adaptation of Campbell’s work THE COURAGEOUS PATH.

While The Courageous Path is great–and I think I put a lot of good work into it–I still do not want to describe it to you. It would get abstract and technical in quite a hurry. It’s tough to resist this temptation.

Rather, let’s look at what typically gets in the way of a person taking The Courageous Path, because if these blockers aren’t removed there’s no point learning about some interested framework or idea.

Therefore, sit back and think about your life situation, personally, professionally, and financially. How many of these blockers get in your way?

The top 10 blockers to courage:

Number 10: Believing the rest of the world is your parents.

The Courageous Path is about striking out on your own to do work that’s important to you, the people in your life, or the world in general. It’s not about filling holes or gaps in your own personal self-worth. It’s not about you feeling good about yourself all the time. Your primary motivation in your efforts shouldn’t be validation.

Number 9: Lacking commitment to the role.

I’ve read numerous books and listened to endless podcasts with people who did something special in the world. I’ve also worked with dozens and dozens of people who broke though successfully. They didn’t have all the answers. They didn’t display some sort of mistake-free wisdom that made everything easy. They often failed much more than they succeeded. But they had commitment. They decided to risk, fail, learn, and risk again.

Number 8: Needing to “get there” right away.

Hitting success in the first attempt or two is like winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. It happens, but on such an infinitesimal scale that it’s not worth planning on. There are so many factors involved in reaching success or hitting your goals that no amount of planning or studying will guarantee quick results. Expect to hit loads of obstacles on your way to achieving what you want.

Number 7: Missing self-confidence.

The world is what you make of it. A few things are guaranteed to happen — you will gain some things you don’t deserve, you will never get some things that you do deserve, and one day you will die. Beyond that, the rest is up to you to make sense of. If you believe in yourself and your abilities to adapt, you will make your world a place of abundance and achievement.

Number 6: Giving up if it doesn’t work the way you want it to.

There are no guarantees that you’ll get what you set out to achieve. No guarantees. Yet that doesn’t make the effort of going for them any less important. First, you’ll be a better person, most likely, for taking a risk. You’re almost guaranteed to learn something. Second, many people find that their initial journey leads to another journey, which leads to yet different journey, and that where they end up is just great. And third, everyone deals with some amount of guilt. Which guilt do you want, the guilt of never having tried or the guilt of having tried and come up short?

Number 5: Never saying no.

This is a lesson I learned at the midpoint of my career. It was invaluable. I, like a lot of people, enjoy being liked and keeping the peace, so much so that I often agree to things that make no sense for me. I’d rather say “yes” and have you feel good than say “no” and risk your disappointment. All this pattern did for me was trap me in commitments I resented and diminished my ability to do my best work for people.

Number 4: Failing to learn from failure.

Everyone who’s done anything significant will explain that they learned more from struggle and failure than from victory and success. It’s true and sad in some ways. But it’s the way the world works. Failures provide a rich field of data from which people can see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a veritable goldmine.

Number 3: Not recognizing the cyclical nature of success.

The natural world is filled with cycles and so are we. We all experience times of darkness and withdrawal. We all experience times of light and engagement. We all experience times of planting and times of harvesting. So many times people interpret cyclical changes as individual failures. This doesn’t need to be the case. No streak lasts forever. Learn the rhythms of your results.

Number 2: Forgetting about delays.

Peter Senge has taught the world many things. His ability to translate Systems Thinking from the engineering world to the business world is astonishing. Delays, he says, are important factors in any complex, interdependent system. This means that you can be doing all of the right things in a situation and not get the immediate results you want. Let me repeat, you can do all of the right things and not get what you want. So many important efforts fail because people pull the plug on something that’s experiencing a delay.

Number 1: Not believing that there’s a tribe out there for you.

Who would care what I have to say? What have I got to add? What’s trending and how do I mimic it? These three questions are the kisses of death in my experience. The question I like to ask is, “How can I best express the essence of who I am?” The world doesn’t need another imitator. The world needs connection and community. When you put out who you are, others take notice and respond. No matter who you are, what you think, or what you’re into, there are dozens, hundreds, or thousands of others who want to hear about it. The risk is about going first.

What’s getting in the way of your courage? What’s your greatest opportunity for improvement? How can you clear the pathway?