You Are Born to Be Brave – Can You Sustain It?

By August 21, 2013Generations

“You are born to be brave.” The words seemed to flow so easily from Brené Brown but they did not just pass by. They stuck, resonating deeply.

“You are born to be brave.”

What simplicity. What power. What truth.

For us Boomers or Gen Xers, when we think back to our early days, we were ready and willing to do just about anything. We were brave. We put on our cape and flung ourselves out into the world to take on any challenge and work hard to achieve our goals.

We were brave. As time wears on us, we become petrified into routines. Being brave becomes muddled. Being brave turns to small, timid steps, leaving big leaps on the sidelines.

For Millennials and Generation Z, you are courageous and energized about the possibilities ahead. It is youthful bravery, unscarred by the continuous waves of time. You are brave. Big leaps are taken.

Born to be brave. Sustain it.

Will it stick through years ahead? A key question.

If we are born to be brave, then how do we sustain our bravery? This is really the heart of the statement.

Living requires bravery.

Each day, we face choices. Taking the path less traveled, yet more meaningful, requires being brave. Each day, we build or repair relationships. Living entails relationships and, let’s face it, some people are just difficult. It takes bravery to engage. Living fully means being centered in our purpose. Finding our purpose, pursuing it, and enhancing it takes us being brave. How do we sustain it?

Being a leader requires bravery.

It is bravery to admit mistakes, make changes, engage in challenging conversations, ask people to leave, embrace people to make them better, coach others to find their purpose in work, and stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. Leadership requires bravery. How do we sustain it?

If we are born brave, isn’t it innate within us?

Brené Brown argues part of being brave is being vulnerable. I am not an expert on this viewpoint but there is relevancy in this argument as you listen to her TEDx talk. Each day in living, we are certainly vulnerable. Each day in leading, we are certainly vulnerable. We are vulnerable because we are imperfect human beings. No matter what our ego may tell us, this is a fact. In realizing everyone is imperfect, our bravery increases.

There has to be more to it than just this?

Beyond realizing everyone is imperfect, we also need to recognize bravery is stoked by moral principles. We have to do know what we believe and what we are willing to stand up for and lead by. There needs to be something deep within our soul we need to live out loud each and every day. When we don’t know what we really believe, our bravery takes a hit. We become unsure of our actions. Worse, we become unsure if it is right for us to speak up, speak out.

Without firm principles, we become flimsy in the wind. At first, we feel like a single strand of wheat bending with each gust and then we step back and see a crowded field all waving in the flow of a breeze. Bravery gets lost in the lack of life and leadership principles.

So, if we are born to be brave, we need to understand everyone is imperfect and we need to know what core principles we will live and lead by. Do we need more?

We need our purpose. Principles are how we will live and lead, and purpose is the energy to move us forward. Purpose is discussed often and understood little. It becomes just a word in an inspirational phrase. It needs to be more.

Purpose puts a lift in our step and a burning ember inside. Work complicates things. Although work and purpose can reside closely together, it doesn’t always happen that way. Work may be an enabler to what our larger purpose is. Work isn’t all our life but our purpose should be embedded in our life. In other words, our purpose can be what we do outside our normal work hours.

We need to think about what fires us up and makes us and others better. Purpose is:

“…a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond self.” The Path to Purpose, William Damon

I like this definition by William Damon as it relates it to us personally as well as to something beyond us. Purpose embraces self and connects to others.

Being brave needs to be more than words written on our souls or a piece of paper.

It needs to be placed into action. Bravery requires action. Without action, bravery doesn’t exist. It is like a tree falling in the forest; no one notices. More importantly, no one feels the positive impact of our bravery.

Bravery requires a rhythm of action. Being brave is not a one-time activity. Being brave requires daily deeds. It requires a rhythm of doing, putting into action our principles and our purpose. Bravery requires a Billy Joel River of Dreams drumbeat in our spirit of action.

We are born to be brave. To sustain it, we need to:

  • Realize we are all imperfect.
  • Know what our core life and leadership principles are.
  • Discern our purpose and live it where it is right and needed – before, during, or after work.
  • Develop a rhythm of action, placing our principles and purpose into life’s arena – full of tangible, meaningful deeds.

For earlier generations, rekindling our bravery is key. For future generations, preserving bravery is essential.

Do you believe we are born to be brave?

If so, how do you make your bravery stick?

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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  • […] Mertz of Thin Difference offers, You Are Born to Be Brave: How Do You Sustain It?  “To be an effective leader, we need to understand where our bravery comes from and what […]

  • Sonali Chauhan says:

    Excellent thoughts Jon! I am convinced that leadership is much more about WHO you are rather than WHAT you do, yet they are interdependent. WHAT you do springs forth from WHO you are – your beliefs, mindsets, and values. Those intangible qualities of leadership span all generations, regardless of the cultural/social labels we place on the generations.

    • Jon M says:

      Agree, Sonali, along with that who we are needs to match what we do. There needs to be consistency, which leads to integrity of positive leadership. Appreciate your perspective. Jon

  • Excellent post. And leave it to you to use a quotation from the very book I use in my upper-level developmental psychology seminar on finding meaning and purpose through the lifespan – a book I’ve never seen anyone reference before!

    What you say about “our purpose can be what we do outside our normal work hours” is interesting. I agree completely with this statement, but disagree with the equation of work = paid labor (“work hours”). I believe that work is whatever you do with a sense of purpose. I think of work as “life’s work” and this may be parenting, volunteering, paid endeavors, or something else entirely. It’s always fascinating how we can all have different takes on the same word.

    Thanks for the wonderfully insightful read!

    • Jon M says:

      Excellent points, Rebecca! I agree. Life’s work doesn’t equal paid work. There are so many people doing so many wonderful things as volunteers or other initiatives. Glad you made that distinction.

      It would be great to be in your seminar, as I am sure the discussions would be engaging and enlightening. The question of how to sustain being brave over time still weighs on my thoughts on how to do this and getting the different perspectives has helped.

      Thanks so much. Very grateful for all you do! Jon

  • Deone Higgs says:

    I absolutely loved this post, @JonMertz:disqus! It epitomizes everything I’ve come to stand for on my life journey. Bravery is what it takes to break out of our comforts zone. Even when we feel like we are paralyzed with fear, we must look whatever we are afraid of in the face – put on a look of pure determination – and advance forward as if we possessed the courage we needed all along. I agree wholeheartedly with Danielle… “The awareness that comes with that self discovery is powerful and quite special.” But it only comes with bravery… nothing else! If we don’t have it, we must fake it until we possess it!

    Well stated, mate! You knocked this one so far out of the park that there is no reason for us to even look to see where it has landed. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, mate!

    • Jon M says:

      I am energized by your response, Deone! Thanks so much for adding your voice and energy into what being brave means and should continue to mean as we live fully and purposefully. Grateful! Jon

  • […] You Are Born to Be Brave – Can You Sustain It? by Jon Mertz. Key quote: “So, if we are born to be brave, we need to understand everyone is imperfect and we need to know what core principles we will live and lead by. Do we need more?” […]

  • Great post, Jon! I do believe we are born to be brave in all aspects of our lives. And it is very much a daily choice to choose the right action at every juncture, every decision point, every fork in the road. I like what you said about knowing our purpose. Because that’s our guidepost for knowing when we need to activate our bravery to defy opposing currents. Otherwise, ego can take over and we act rashly in the name of being brave. As for your question about making bravery stick, I guess I’ll reframe it slightly to say, “How do I stay committed to acting bravely when necessary?” Just like you pointed out in your excellent post above, it comes with recognize that we’re human, which means we’re imperfect and vulnerable. We need to be ok with these realities. Beyond that, it’s cultivating a consciousness to choose to do the right thing in those moments of feeling vulnerable and less than for any reason, while staying connected to our center and purpose for being. Thanks again for a thought-provoking post, Jon!

    • Jon M says:

      Great insights, Alice, to this conversation. Consciousness is required, as it builds an awareness of what we are doing and what the impact may be to others. Equally important, as you point out, is commitment to purpose. We need to define it and then ensure we are on track to live it and lead by it.

      Always appreciate your perspective! Jon

  • Luke Roland says:

    Hey Jon, I really liked your point about purpose. Purpose requires bravery, and with purpose you have a reason to be brave. Only with a person of purpose does bravery truly exist.

    • Jon M says:

      Hi Luke, Thank you. In thinking being brave through, purpose seems to be a necessity to sustain it and empower it. It is something you seem to have in what and how you do what you do. Appreciate it! Jon

  • I love the mention that each choice we make, every day, takes bravery. With all the movies and novels in our lives, sometimes it seems like bravery is reserved for the superhero or prince.

    I love the focus on discovery- on searching out our values, our beliefs, our purpose. That journey alone takes courage and bravery. The awareness that comes with that self discovery is powerful and quite special.

    And I love the reminder of action. That bravery requires action- we must be someone, stand for something.

    Thank you, Jon, for your insight and energy above. Always enjoy your posts, but this one resonates with me even deeper.

    Danielle Elizabeth Aaronson

    • Jon M says:

      Danielle, Thank you so very much. Your feedback and thoughts mean a great deal to me, as I value and enjoy the work done by you and your organization. Thank you. Jon

  • KateNasser says:

    Tremendous post. Filled with philosophy, insight, uplift, and actionable steps. Truly fabulous. I love the focus on bravery being more than just the physical courage aspect we often consider.

    Brave enough to speak up even when it may ruffle feathers. Brave enough to say no I don’t accept that treatment. Brave enough to give even when we’re not sure if we will ever receive and feel valued. I could go on and on because of your inspiration.

    Truly wonderful. Many thanks!

    • Jon M says:

      Thank you, Kate. Bravery is more than physical courage and, in fact, may be more of an internal courage than anything else. Your additions are spot-on! Appreciate all you do and the community you are building with #PeopleSkills…. brave, inspiring steps! Thank you. Jon

  • Alli Polin says:

    We are born to be brave. Sustain it. Wow. Exceptional post from you, Jon. I would add that bravery is what makes the journey an adventure. I can see, even now, where my boldest steps have melted into comfort. The comfort isn’t bad, we don’t always need to be on the edge, but we have to be willing to go there – especially when it matters most. Thanks for this! ~ Alli

    • Jon M says:

      Thanks so much, Alli! I agree. We cannot always be on edge but we need to be mostly on purpose. Rest is important, as we always to time to think and re-energize. Thanks again! Jon

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