The 365 Commitment

Day 212 – Courage is Not the Absence of Fear

“You, Lion, are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom.” – L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

A Surprising Revelation in Sales Leadership

Recently, I took on the leadership of a seasoned sales team, feeling the weight of my less extensive experience in selling solutions. Eager to bridge this gap, I arranged a meeting with the team’s top account executive, a person whose success I hoped to understand and support. Surprisingly, a few minutes into our discussion, it became clear that no one had genuinely inquired about how to further his success. His initial surprise at my questions soon gave way to an open discussion about his struggles, particularly his fear of rejection. This conversation was a revelation, highlighting an unexpected vulnerability at the heart of his professional bravado.

The Real Face of Courage in Business

Since that pivotal conversation, I’ve discovered that the most effective salespeople are often those most afraid of rejection. To an outsider, this might seem paradoxical. How could individuals who earn their living by persuading others to make purchases harbor such fear? The answer echoes the wisdom imparted to the Lion by the Wizard of Oz: courage is not the absence of fear, but the determination to act in spite of it. The most successful salespeople aren’t less fearful of rejection; they are simply more committed to overcoming it. They meticulously prepare for each meeting, channeling their energy into providing compelling reasons for a client to say yes. Driven by the dread of hearing “no,” they exhaust all avenues to secure a victory. By convincing themselves that success is the only outcome, they manage to overpower their fears with sheer force of will.
The Universal Application of Overcoming Fear
This willingness to overcome is not unique to sales; it applies universally wherever risk invites the constant threat of failure. Consider entrepreneurs presenting their visions to potential investors. Each pitch is a request for trust and financial backing, a risk fraught with the potential for rejection. Every founder I’ve met has grappled with fears of rejection, fears of being perceived as a fraud, or fears of facing unanswerable questions. Yet, it is often those who fear the most who are the best prepared. They craft impeccable pitch decks and rehearse precise answers to likely questions. Their polish and confidence do not arise from a lack of fear, but directly from their courage to confront and manage it. Interestingly, it is frequently those early-stage founders who harbor the greatest fears of rejection who are more likely to secure initial funding.

Personal Challenge: The Ultra-Running Experience

Consider the ultra-runner. A few years ago, I completed a 50-mile race, a goal I set after committing to become a runner. Initially, I viewed others who tackled 26, 50, 100, or even 250-mile races with a mix of awe and incredulity, questioning their courage to undertake such daunting challenges. I feared I might pass out on the trail, succumb to exhaustion, or worse, find myself desperately seeking rescue. However, having achieved this feat, I now understand the reality behind the courage of ultra-runners. They, too, harbor fears of collapsing, receiving a DNF (Did Not Finish) status, or encountering physical crises like severe cramps or injuries during their races. Their courage doesn’t stem from an absence of fear; rather, they confront their fears through rigorous preparation and training to ensure they can face and overcome these very real challenges. They are not fearless but profoundly aware of potential setbacks, making their preparations not just routine but a vital strategy for success. Their courage is manifested not by dismissing fear as irrelevant but by methodically preparing to mitigate every conceivable risk.

Reflections on Courage and Fear

In reflecting on these diverse experiences—from leading a sales team to undertaking an ultra-marathon—I have come to understand that the most successful people embrace risk not by denying their fears, but by facing them with courage. They prepare meticulously, work tirelessly, and strategically confront real threats. This approach isn’t about eradicating fear; instead, it involves acknowledging and mastering it through sheer determination and will.

Just like the Lion in L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the truly courageous do not walk the path without fear. Rather, they continue forward precisely because their fear teaches them caution and compels them to prepare thoroughly. Whether in sales, entrepreneurship, or endurance sports, these individuals demonstrate that courage does not come from an absence of fear. Instead, it arises from the persistent effort to move forward, despite the very real emotions that might otherwise hold one back.

This realization reshapes our understanding of courage: It is not about the roar of defiance against danger, but the quiet steps taken day after day, each one a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and its capacity to triumph over fear.

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