How to Be More Courageous in Life
“To be happy means to be free. To be free means to be brave.” — Thucydides
The lesson is this:
- If we are courageous, we gain freedom
- If we gain freedom, we gain happiness
So if you want to be happier, become more courageous.
Courage courage courage; is what raises the blood of life to crimson splendor (Horace)
I was talking with my buddy Brendan Mackie and he told me about a study he read on the most innovative and ‘successful’ architects. He asked me:
Eric, what do you think is the differentiation between the most successful and least successful architects?
I had no idea.
He then told me:
The most successful architects were the ones who had the most self-confidence. The most successful architects doubted themselves the least.
Which made me realize — to become ‘successful’ in life is to have confidence in yourself. To have confidence in your crazy ideas and dreams. To punch fear in his ugly face, and to put on your Spartan helmet of valor.
1. Don’t give a fuck
The first step to becoming more courageous in life: give fewer fucks what others think of you.
Honestly; it is so blunt, and rash to say this — but it is so true.
Don’t give a fuck what your parents think of you. They wanted the best for you, they love you, they care for you, but they try to super-impose their own belief structure on you (based on what they learned from their parents) which might not apply to you. And not only that, but unfortunately your parents want to ‘save face’ with their friends and family, so they will try to show you off like a BMW or a Mercedes. If you are ‘successful’ in the monetary or status-hungry sense, they will feel better about themselves.
Don’t give a fuck what strangers think of you. They don’t know who you are; and the pains and tribulations you’ve been through. You’re never even going to see them ever again — so why do you care?
Don’t give a fuck about what your fair-weather friends think of you. Your real friends will always be with you. Your real friends will ride and die with you. You can probably name those friends on the fingers of your hands.
Don’t give a fuck of your past. Burn your past memories; and throw them into the dumpster. Do a fresh reformatting of your brain, and all the self-doubt you’ve had in your past. Start carte blanche — with a fresh clean, white slate. Everyday you have a chance to re-invent yourself.
But — give a fuck what you think of you.
Can you wake up every morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and think to yourself: “I am proud of who I am, what I do, and my virtuous deeds.” Or do you look at yourself in the mirror, and think to yourself: “My 18 year old self would be embarrassed of me.”
Give a big fuck about your own life. Give a fuck about the work that you do. Put your heart and soul into the work that you do, and hustle hard to uplift the souls of others. Think less about your own well-being — care more about ultimately helping serve others.
And that requires giving a big middle-finger to the ‘rules’ of society. Do you really need a BMW, a white-picket house fence in the suburbs, 2.5 children, a dog, a Rolex, and a trophy-husband?
At best, you might live to be 120 years — assuming we figure out a way to cure cancer and other major heart diseases.
Or at worst, you might die tomorrow.
Why waste any precious second of your life-blood, caring about others?
Assignment 1: What is your life’s task?
Care about yourself — and stay focused on your life’s task. Whatever that may be for you. If you don’t know what your life’s task is, just write on a piece of paper and answer it for yourself:
“What is my life’s task?”
For me, my life’s task is to create open-source information, which I hope will uplift the souls of others. To create more joy, creativity, and good vibes for others. To encourage others to have less fear in their lives. And to use photography as a tool for self-therapy and self-empowerment.
2. Don’t be afraid of death
Kind of related to the prior point — to become more courageous is to not be afraid of death.
Why are you afraid of death? Being dead is the same thing as the state of your body before you were born. When you’re dead; you no longer feel pain. And no, don’t fear hell — there are no little devils who are going to poke you in the butt with a sharp stick when you die.
Rather, be afraid of living a life that isn’t noble. Be afraid of living a life full of vice, and not devoting your life to virtue, and helping others.
You have a passion in your heart. You know what it is. You had that passion in your heart when you were 5 years old, 10 years old, 15 years old, and maybe even 18–21 years old. But when you get older, society beats your passion out of you. Society tells you to put on your suit and tie, to shut the fuck up, sit down, answer emails, and collect your bi-weekly check. Then to one day save enough to finally travel the world at age 65. Then die.
What I think we fear isn’t death — but fear of being judged negatively by our peers and friends. We are afraid of looking like a ‘failure’ by not driving a fancy car, by not having a lot of zeros and commas in our bank accounts, and by not having other status-symbols.
How much do you really need to live? You need to pay your rent, you need to feed yourself, and you need to drink water (and coffee, of course). You need some basic clothes to not freeze to death. You need your friends, family, and loved ones. You need your creative work. But besides that, what do you really ‘need’ in life?
You got your smartphone, you got your laptop, you got your (overflowing) closet of clothes, you have all your random gadgets and gizmos at home, you have basic transportation, and you have food in the fridge. Why want more?
Why not devote more of your energy to do your creative work? To write more? To think more, to wonder more? To explore and travel more? To read more, to dance more, to sing more, to create more?
To be more courageous in your life is to not fear death. To be more courageous in your life is to push your comfort zone. To be more courageous in your life is to publish more.
Assignment 2: Publish one (original piece of art) everyday
My suggestion to become more courageous as an artist and human being: publish one new creative work or project everyday.
For example, if you’re a photographer, upload at least 1 new photo everyday. Don’t be afraid whether others will think it is good or bad. Only upload photos that you like.
If you’re a writer, upload at least one original piece of writing of yours a day. It can be a short letter, blog post, haiku, poem, rap, whatever. And yes please — share your ‘shitty first draft’ or works in progress.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or one day hope to own your own business, take a step towards your dreams, and have more courage. Action cures all timidity. The first step to starting your business: send an email to a potential client, and ask them whether they are interested in your product or services. The second step: send 100 emails. The third step: don’t be discouraged by not getting any responses, or by getting rejected. The fourth step: don’t stop until you find at least 1 paying client. Boom — you got a business started.
3. Build muscle
The last tip to building courage — I find that having physical strength leads to mental strength.
Everyday, when you’re bored at home, just go on the floor and do as many pushups as you can until you get tired (or bored).
Or, go to the gym, and learn how to do dead-lifts (yes, that includes both ladies and men). Only deadlift once a week, and each week try to add 5 pounds or 2.5 kilos to your deadlift.
Watch YouTube videos on body-weight exercises that you can do on your floor (push-ups, body-weight squats) or buy a chin-up bar you can do at home. Or watch YouTube Yoga videos.
Buy a kettle bell on Amazon Prime, and learn how to do ‘kettle bell swings.’ I used to have a 70lb kettle bell at home, which saved me time from going to the gym. I started with two-arm swings, then moved onto 1-arm swings.
For myself, I try to pump myself up by imagining the strength of the 300 Trojan soldiers, facing death. I watch YouTube clips of King Leonidas (in the movie 300) addressing his troops. I also admire the Spartan muscular bodies.
I try to put myself into ‘beast mode’ — by listening to empowering hip hop. I’ve been listening to a lot of Dr. Dre’s “Compton” soundtrack, and have been impressed how buff Dr. Dre has become. He only focuses on three things:
- His work (making music)
- His family
- Working out
He says no to everything else.
Assignment 3: Do 1 (fun) form of physical exercise everyday
Build muscle with fun. Don’t do any exercise that isn’t fun to you.
Just experiment. Try out yoga, cycling, walking, running, push-ups, chin-ups, cross-fit, martial arts, powerlifting, bodybuilding, or just running around in the woods.
Build muscle. Build your body.
If you want to lose body fat, the easiest way is to just stop consuming sugar (yes, even even ‘natural sugar’ — that means stop eating fruit). Stop consuming starch (potatoes, white carbohydrates) and simple carbs (don’t eat pasta, bread, etc).
Eat lots of protein (beef, pork, fish, eggs, etc) and veggies (kale, lettuce, broccoli, or anything else that is green and leafy).
And stick to black coffee (no sugar, no cream).
I’ve found that in life, there is no ‘success’ or ‘failure.’ There is only following your passion; and not following your passion.
Even if you have a 9–5 job, you can still follow your passion. If anything, having a day-job and your passion on the side is a good strategy. Do the minimum amount of work at your job (without getting fired), and devote the rest of your creative energy, time, and attention in your passion. Shoot everyday during your work commute on your smartphone, photograph during your lunch breaks, and on the way home. Photograph on the weekends, and take vacation days to travel.
If you love to write, learn how to write more by writing on your smartphone (I recommend the IA Writer app), by using the ‘Pomodoro technique’ to writing (write for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, repeat), or by dictating your speech to Google Docs and have it transcribe your speech into writing (available in Google Chrome).
If you want to start a business, register your own website via bluehost.com, and install wordpress.org on your website. Make a price-sheet for your services, the benefits/features of your product, and include your email as a contact. Try to sell your first service or product. Then boom, you have a business.
Let me end this with a little poem for you:
HAVE NO FEAR
Have no fear
Don’t be like a deer
caught in the head-lamps
Be like a fucking beast
put your heart and mind at ease.
Nothing can hurt you
or kill you.
You have a passion
burning in your heart
just waiting to get out.
What do you fear?
To get jeered at
and insulted by your friends and family?
Wouldn’t you rather pursue your life’s task
and sacrifice yourself; tied to the mast?
Don’t you want to live a noble and epic life?
To cut off the head of the serpent of fear
and to peer
into your brilliant future?
You have an inner-light
let it shine
piercing the darkness of night.
You already have enough money,
What is holding you back?
Action is what drives you forward
Action is what ignites your soul on fire
Action is what is lacking
But you lack
So go out, and just fucking do it
You got this shit
Just fucking do it.
I believe in you.