Courage Does Not Roar

Today, I was in a room full of remarkable people, making a list of what qualities make someone remarkable.

The predictable elements were listed:




Intelligent/ Smart


After 15 or so elements were listed on the post-it board… courageous was added to the list.

When you are courageous (or fearless, bold – some synonyms), you have what you need to face the inherent uncertainty in all growth. It is the opposite of what most corporate hacks are: risk-averse. If we had more if it at work, we’d have more innovation for sure, but we’d probably have more real conversations. When you are courageous, you will be authentic and honest, you will perseverance rather than give up, and you will be brave even when you would rather not be.

In all the years of studying courageousness, I’ve never met anyone who actually sees themselves as such. They’ll typically give you one of those pheshaw sounds if you even suggest such a thing. Maybe they just don’t know how to brag? But I think it’s more that courageous is about being clear.

When you are clear, it is almost as if you didn’t make a choice. It wasn’t as if you were looking actively at Choice A and Choice B as equal. It becomes more a matter that you know which choice to make, and whatever isn’t in alignment with that… just fades almost out of view.

Many years ago, I was in my office, talking to some friends on a conference call when they asked me a question and I heard myself say, “I no longer want to be here.” I was referring to the business and the team that I had built from nothing, Rubicon. Rubicon was incredibly important to me; Not only did it provide a sizable part of our family income, it had many commitments including the many people on payroll and 1099s, it allowed me to do work I LOVED, and anyone who knows me from back then knows that it formed a big (big, big, big) part of my identity. To hear that phrase pop out of my mouth, “I no longer want to be here”, surprised me immensely

And, you know how sometimes you wish you were a cartoon character where the word balloon is right over your head… I wanted to reel back those words. … . But I couldn’t.

Not only was it out there for everyone to hear, I heard it. And it got me thinking. And while there was a long set of decisions to make final one that led me from there to here, I can say the key to any courage I get credited for… was really that I listened to my own truth.

Courage does not roar. It does not need to.

The truer that voice, the louder it will sound, and the farther it will reach. That’s why I believe great innovators pay attention to the thoughts that come from their heart. They honor their truth. Because this knowledge will lead you forward. It will give you courage. It will make you brave. And perhaps, it will lead you to be even more remarkable than you already are.

15 Responses:

  1. Dan Oestreich. December 8, 2011 at 1:54 am  


    I think you stated it beautifully — listening to your own truth. To your tweeted question whether you are being “too harsh,” I suspect you know the answer to that question — from the very same source that wrote the post.

    The point is that there is a context and conditioning in which we can all get caught up and become less than courageous, and there is a way out of that, which is to listen carefully to larger aspects of ourselves. Sometimes, as your story shows, it is almost unexpected. We hear ourselves say something or an event occurs and there’s a message of some kind.

    Good for you, you heard your heart. And isn’t that the source of the word itself, courage?

    • Nilofer Merchant. December 9, 2011 at 1:09 am  

      Let’s hope more of us find the courage to listen to our hearts…

  2. Craig. December 8, 2011 at 4:45 am  

    Why couldn’t you change Rubicon to be a place you wanted to be at?

    • Nilofer Merchant. December 9, 2011 at 1:11 am  

      Oh, boy that is a longish answer… I did try. For a long time. Some of that was my work, and some of it was tied to the decisions the Rubicon members made. I wrote a bit of it (follow the links embedded in the post also) before >

  3. Jeffrey Cufaude. December 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm  

    Wonderful thoughts, and they reminded me of one of my favorite Parker Palmer books: Let Your Life Speak,

    I think too often we get in the way of our life trying to speak to us. If we just listen courageously as you aptly note, it will tell us where we need to be.

    • Nilofer Merchant. December 9, 2011 at 1:11 am  

      Jeff — good reminder of Parker’s work. I like it a lot. I also think his work called “hidden wholeness” is worth paying attention to…

  4. Peter. December 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm  

    The sad part is there are so many people out there in the world who do not have this courage to take action. Many years ago I started telling people that there are so many great things to do our there in this wonderful world that one should not complain about the things they are doing…..a job they do not like!!!! Working hard to teach my children this now too!!!!

    • Nilofer Merchant. December 9, 2011 at 1:13 am  

      It might very well be the human condition to complain. 😉

  5. Gaurav Kapil. December 9, 2011 at 5:26 am  

    I think I needed that small pat on back, that being courageous indicates that you are scared but you keep moving forward.

    I’m in IndianOil India’s largest commercial PSU. There are so many possibilities, opportunities to do work here. It requires courage to keep moving forward amidst of people who keep on pulling one’s spirits down with ‘it won’t work’, ‘nothing works here’, ‘ there is no system in place’.

    For me if system is not in place then it is great because now I can work on it. And if I won’t work on it, tomorrow new generation will say ‘there is no system in place’.

  6. gregorylent. December 13, 2011 at 11:38 am  

    courage … no attachment to outcome

    • Nilofer Merchant. January 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm  

      I find that as a very goal oriented person, a tension point is how much “i set direction” and then how much I listen to my heart. the intellectual part of me wants goals, milestones, outcomes. The emotional side of me wants to pursue a passion. Those can seem at conflict but only when I listen to both sides can I draw a venn diagram that includes both perspectives. If there is a lesson in that, it is no attachment… for sure.

  7. Tamisha. December 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm  

    Nilofer – this is a beautiful post. I love it! Courage does not roar. It is the lamb, not the lion. So deep. Thanks for writing…



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