We are already brave

Yes Changes Everything!“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”

— Mary Anne Radmacher, Artist


We think of courage as something we have or don’t have. “I just don’t have the courage” or “I’m just not brave” or “[He/she/they] are just braver than I am.”

But I don’t think courage is something we necessarily have. Most times, courage doesn’t just bubble up from a well somewhere inside us and move our feet forward or vibrate our vocal cords or poke us in the ribs so we magically raise our hand.

After a courageous choice, we don’t look back and say, “I decided I was going to tap into my courage reserves. My tank was 80 percent full, so I had enough to get me through this decision.”

On purpose

Beautiful someone, courage is much more deliberate and on-purpose.

It’s not something we have — it’s something we show by being willing to take a chance. Sometimes even with our eyes closed. We just, just, just let our feet leave the ledge and trust that our cape will pop open and let us fly.

Courage is conscious, a choice.

  • It’s saying yes to the job we don’t feel 100 percent ready for because we know no matter how afraid we feel, it’s the right decision.
  • It’s the decision to speak up about injustice when staying quiet feels safer and definitely less complicated.
  • It’s the choice to raise our shaking hand to volunteer for a tough project when we’d be much more comfortable grabbing a glass of wine with friends.
  • It’s signing the mortgage we know is going to put a crimp in our mad money for a while but is, in every other way, the right long-term investment.
  • It’s walking up to introduce ourselves to someone we want to meet even though we’re facing a better than 50/50 chance of rejection.
  • It’s writing books with no guarantee that anyone will want to read them 😊.

Yes is a chance

When we operate with this quality of courage — the kind we don’t wait to feel — we’re acknowledging that yes is a chance: things may go well, they may not, or maybe a little bit of both:

  • Yes to a marriage: a lasting commitment to one per-son — from blue skies to tornadoes and back again (and again).
  • Yes to having a child: a lifetime and beyond of being completely devoted to another human being down to our bone marrow through every age and stage.
  • Yes to a mortgage: 15 or 30 years out into the future, when the money flows — and when it doesn’t.
  • Yes to a career choice, especially one that involves a certification or degree: years of money and effort.
  • Yes to a kitty or puppy: 12+ years and who knows how many chewed chair legs and torn up sweaters and rugs.
  • Yes to a job change: leaving what’s known, whether we love it or not.

Courage is believing in hope. It’s our feet moving forward, our hand dialing the phone, our fingers typing the email, our mouths curving into a shaky smile, our booties firmly planted in a chair outside someone’s office when they’ve ignored every one of our emails and calls …when we don’t feel like doing any of those things, and especially when they scare the bleep out of us!

What courage sounds like

  • “You know what? I’ve thought it through, I’m scared, but it’s right, and I’m going to do it.”
  • “I’m going to give it a go. There’s a good upside to it. Let’s see what happens.”
  • “Wish I’d started earlier, but better late than never.”
  • “I really believe this will be worth it in the long run.”
  • “Yes, I’m scared, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to get a law degree.”
  • “Yes, I’m nervous, but I really do want to meet her.”

Beautiful someone, courage doesn’t mean we feel brave. It means we act brave. This means that the yes that changes everything does take courage, but we can’t wait around to feel it. We do it without waiting for our feelings to catch up and trust that the feelings will follow. Because, we know, we are already brave.

“The infinite capacity of hope”

Hi Beautiful Someone,

Sorry for the long post, but I really wanted to share this excerpt from my new book, Yes Changes Everything! Please enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Yes Changes Everything!

What do you know about Helen Keller? Probably that she was blind and deaf and lived a long and influential life. Me too. But it was only after coming across one of my favorite Helen Keller quotes on optimism that I started to look closer at her life and realize how truly remarkable she was.

Helen Keller was born a healthy baby in 1880 on a farm near Tuscumbia, Alabama. At six months, she began to talk and at 12 months to walk. Before age 2, however, an illness — later they would speculate scarlet fever or meningitis — had taken Helen’s ability to see and hear. She would live in darkness and silence for the rest of her life.

“She knows! She knows!”

Helen grew up in a loving home, but her family didn’t know how best to take care of her, so they let her run free and be wild.

As she grew, her inability to see or hear must have become very frustrating. And the wild and unusual behavior that was cute and acceptable in a baby and a toddler was totally unmanageable in an older child. By age six, she was prone to screaming, tantrums, and rages. People began to say that institutionalizing her was the only solution. But Helen’s parents were determined to do all they could and find options for her.

Eventually, they found the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston. It was there, through Alexander Graham Bell (yes, that one, inventor of the telephone), that they were put in touch with the woman who became one of the most dedicated teachers of all time: Annie Sullivan.

Annie worked tirelessly with Helen to enable her to make connections between objects she could feel and letters of the alphabet that Annie would draw into the palm of her hand.

The Miracle Worker

If you’ve seen the movie The Miracle Worker, you’ll remember the scene at the water pump where Annie holds a seven-year-old Helen’s hand under the spray, yelling, “It has a name!” and spells W-A-T-E-R into the little girl’s hand. This is the moment when, slowly and with great difficulty, Helen says, “wa-wa.”

Everything happens then in the space of a few minutes as Helen runs from the pump to the ground to the trees to the porch steps and demands to have them spelled into her hand. “Mrs. Keller! Mrs. Keller!” Annie screams, “She knows! She knows!” By the end of that day, in the fashion of hand-spelling, Helen had learned more than 30 words.

The infinite capacity of hope

From that moment, Helen Keller’s world opened. She attended the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston, then the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. She worked for decades to learn how to read Braille as well as how to communicate through touch-lip reading, typing, and finger-spelling. She was a formidable opponent as a chess player. She attended Radcliffe College where she proved to be a brilliant and extremely hard-working student, graduating with honors in 1904 and becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

Helen Keller became an author, completing her first book, The Story of My Life, in 1905. Others would follow, including The World I Live In, Out of the Dark, The Song of the Stone Wall, The Open Door, and Optimism. Helen had a heart for activism, voicing her views on social and political issues such as women’s suffrage, pacifism, labor rights, and anti-militarism.

She worked tirelessly on behalf of people living with disabilities, traveling around the world and even testifying before Congress about the needs of the blind. In 1920, she helped found the powerful and influential American Civil Liberties Union. She received honorary doctoral degrees from five renowned universities around the world, and in 1963 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The secret of the stars

I love the story of Helen Keller’s life and her amazing breakthroughs and contributions. Even more amazing: late in her life, she lamented in an interview that one of her only regrets was that she had not been able to learn to speak properly — her speech was halting and incoherent because she had heard so little of the spoken word before her illness. If she had learned to speak clearly, she said, she could have helped more people. “How much more good could I have done if I had acquired normal speech?” she said through her teacher. “But out of this sorrowful experience, I understand more fully all human strivings, thwarted ambitions, and the infinite capacity of hope.” What a poignant example of transforming incredible hardship into lasting good!

All this is a backdrop for one of my all-time favorite quotes about optimism that sparked such an interest in the story of Helen Keller from none other than Helen herself:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”