BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

The Definition of Courage

A man staring down at his bare feet

Do the thing you fear, and the death of that fear is certain. 

A quick Google search reveals this saying comes from either Mark Twain or Ralph Waldo Emerson, depending on which link you believe.

But I’ll always attribute it to my dad, as it’s one of the main pieces of wisdom he’s leaned on whenever I’m in need of fatherly guidance.

And while I’ve done my best to follow the first half of that proverb, I’ve rarely reaped the benefits of its second half.

Things haven’t gotten easier. Challenges feel just as challenging. My fears seldom meet their demise.

I think about when I was taking improv comedy classes, a task that was a galaxy beyond my comfort zone.

I’m thankful I found the nerve to sign up. And I’m proud I had the determination to show up.

But doing so never became less daunting.

I remember sitting in my car, staring at the theater before my last class, and feeling just as nervous as I’d been before my first. Upon realizing this, I couldn’t help laughing a laugh of both amazement and defeat.

I’d been doing this exact thing every Monday for a year; why was it still so difficult?

Sometimes I wonder if this is just who I am, if I’m hardwired for fear.

Other times I wonder if I have more say in the matter, if I try hard enough and show up enough, I have the ability to make things more manageable. Eventually.

If I had to guess, the truth lies somewhere in the middle — a little nature, a little nurture.

Regardless, experience tells me that life is in the living — in trying, in taking risks, in stepping out on stage when you have no idea what to say.

Which is why when I’m faced with uncertainty and self-doubt, I do my best to lean on another of my father’s proverbs, one he apparently borrowed from the great John Wayne:

Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.

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