‘Enough courage to take chances’

A man’s courage is like a horse that refuses a fence; you have to take him by the head and cram him at it again. If you don’t, he will funk worse next time. I hadn’t enough courage to be able to take chances with it, though I was afraid of many things, the thing I feared most was being afraid.

Mr. Standfast

From the man who gave us the somewhat humble but simultaneously complimentary self-descriptor of “cunning coward”, comes another revelatory observation about the qualities of courage and fear. Richard Hannay is one of the most believable heroes of adventure I’ve read in his role as wartime spy, soldier, and wager of campaigns, whether that be a pitched field of battle in France with a full battalion under his command, or holding an obscure hill against irregular militia in the middle east with a few odd companions. How? He tells us himself.

It’s all very well and good to have a theory about pushing yourself to do hard things. I for one, was prepared to sit here and bang out a quick post about how I’ve overcome the hurdle of moving away from my home city and my family. And wouldn’t you know it, I faced my fear of the unknown, and landed on the other side with a good job and a fairly bright prospect. Well done, me. If you keep at it and do things that scare you, things can work out better than you ever thought they would. Inspirational post in the bag.

From Mr. Standfast by John Buchan

But no sooner have I begun formulating this self-congratulatory ramble in my mind, than another opportunity in a challenging area for me presents itself as though to say, “Getting comfortable? Boo.” And I’m scared. Because if courage is like a horse, once it’s over that first fearsome fence, there’s always another one to clear after it. And another after that. And I know I don’t have enough courage to spare on the chance that it will disappear entirely if I don’t cram myself at this next jump.

And I think that’s how Richard Hannay somehow manages to be inspirational and believable as a hero–he keeps going even when it’s hard, even when he’s scared, even after he’s just gotten through a difficult situation by the skin of his teeth. He isn’t always the smartest person in the room, he isn’t always confident, competent, or competition. But he has a range of adaptable skills, a cool head under pressure, and he knows himself enough to know how to exploit his traits to get the best performance–which is, keep moving, don’t give yourself time to chicken out. Anybody can do that.

Even me posting this tonight–I haven’t been even close to consistent with posting for over a month (due in part to the aforementioned moving) and I seriously considered just skipping today. Because every time I come back here and write and put something out, it is a bit anxiety-inducing. But I know the longer I leave it, the worse it gets. So, I’m taking myself by the head and cramming out a post (slightly late anyway, by this time), and this self-reflective drivel is what you get.

And on that note, I’ve planned a post about creating the right conditions for getting things–specifically writing–done. Because I realised you have to know what works for you, what will get you going, and keep you going. Hurdles are always going to pop up, and it’s great to exercise the motivation to keep moving past them, but that doesn’t mean you have to create more, either. So if you’re interested in more on that from me, click here.

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