Let’s make sure we have one thing straight before we start: thinking about courage accomplishes nothing. I’m reminded of a riddle I heard a year or so ago, one I often torture my teenage son with:
Q: Four frogs are sitting on a log. Three decide to jump off. How many are left?
A: Four. Deciding isn’t doing.
All the thinking, all the planning, all the visualizing in the world will not move you one inch closer to the life you want. It’s not until you take action that you’ll start making progress–and some time after that, if you keep at it, you’ll see results.
That’s where courage comes in. Courage, you may remember from one of my first posts, is action in the face of fear. It doesn’t exist until you do something.
That’s why courage is so rare. Most of us get hung up on the fear and never make it to the part where we take action. We don’t want to act unless we’re certain we’ll succeed.
Wealthy people, successful people, take a different approach. They gather as much information as they can, then they act. They don’t sit and analyze until the opportunity for action passes them by. They don’t wait for their friend to call them back to tell them what they should do.
They act. They move forward. They take risks.
And sometimes they fall flat on their faces. Most of the time, they don’t let that stop them. They get up, brush themselves off, and keep moving forward. If they are still confident of their direction, they change their approach and keep going. If not, they try something else.
They don’t sit still for long. Fear doesn’t stop them. Doubt doesn’t stop them. Lack of information doesn’t stop them. If they don’t know enough to move forward on a particular course, they’ll shelve it and move forward with something else. Later, when they have more information, they’ll go back to the original.
But they don’t sit still. They don’t suffer from paralysis or complacency.
It’s easy to think successful people are a different breed from the rest of us. They’re constitutionally more decisive, or more fearless, or luckier, or smarter, or harder-working than we are, the folks who work for them. Or maybe they’re just more ruthless.
I don’t think that’s true. Are there wealthy people who are smarter than I am, luckier, more fearless, more ruthless? Sure. But it doesn’t follow that one has to be those things to become wealthy.
So how can courage make you wealthy?
Courage overcomes the friction of indecision. When I tell myself I have to take action on this decision, or defer it and move on with something else, by this date–and then I hold myself to that commitment–I have taken action. I have overcome the friction of indecision. I have accepted the possibility that I might fail, and I’ve determined that risk is preferable to doing nothing.
The next time I have a decision to make, the friction will be less severe. I will find it easier to take action. The next time, it will be easier still.
Two things will happen when I establish this pattern: first, I will have more failures. And second, I will have more victories. Both are the unavoidable consequences of taking action.
From there, it becomes nothing more sophisticated than a numbers game; if I can minimize the impact of my failures while maximizing that of my victories, I can’t help but become wealthy.
It all starts with taking action. And that requires courage.