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Things to Think About - Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear

By Pepper de Callier

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." Mark Twain

In my work with the Aspen Institute Prague and Vodafone’s Odyssey Program, I spend a lot of time with young leaders.  Our discussions are generally about various issues relating to values-based leadership, but we often also talk about their careers and the role of intelligent risk-taking in order to grow, not only as an executive, but as a person.

The 21st century can be a scary place at times.  Change and the pace of change force one to learn new ways of doing things which, at times, means taking a risk—stepping way out of our comfort zones in order to grow and rise to the challenge.  That’s when the topic of courage usually comes up and I have found, over the years, that many people completely misunderstand the concept of courage. They feel that courage means the absence of fear--that if they really had courage, they wouldn’t experience fear.

I find this sad, because not understanding that brave people, courageous people, still have fear, just like everyone else makes someone who experiences fear feel inferior.  The only difference between a brave person and a coward sometimes is that the brave person, who has the same fear as the coward, refuses to give in to it and keeps moving forward.  So I tell people that it’s okay to be scared when stepping out of your comfort zone, but each time you do step out, the next time you’re faced with a challenge, it becomes easier, because you have a higher level of self-confidence.  What challenge, or opportunity, is in front of you that you can use your new understanding to conquer?

Till next time…

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at