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Courage Rarely Feels Courageous

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” ― Brené Brown

You’ve seen it a million times. You flip on your TV or social media and see news footage of a person who risked something in order to save someone or something else. The hero typically says something like, “Aw, it was nothing. I just wanted to help. I did what anyone would’ve done.”

It’s interesting. The heroes don’t appear falsely humble, instead they seem legitimately unable to see their efforts as anything unusual. They do not comprehend that they put themselves at physical and/or emotional risk in order to run toward danger, injury, or the unknown. And as Brené Brown teaches us over and over – taking risks of any kind is vulnerable and brave all at once.

At NANT 9 I experienced a quiet type of courage that I’m certain would be labeled anything but brave by the person who stood before me. It was Saturday around 5pm, the very end of the event. I was standing in front the stage talking one by one with a line of attendees.

A woman stepped toward me, slowly, cautiously, her professional poster rolled up and tucked by her side. She told me that presenting a poster was completely out of her comfort zone. She had never done such a thing and never imagined herself doing so in a group of 500 or so colleagues.

She leaned in and whispered, “I didn’t think anyone would even care about my poster or about my work. But they did! They were really interested! They asked so many questions.” Her eyes misted briefly as did mine.

I told her that getting out of her comfort zone was contagious, and that I doubted this was the last time I’d see her beyond the confines of its safety. She smiled, maybe nervously. But I know it to be true. Once you leave behind what you once thought yourself capable of, you rarely return.

Courage is like that.