Courage is something that we all have deep inside of us.
Courage is the ability to act on one’s beliefs despite danger, fear or disapproval.
It is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear;
Courage is also called audacity, boldness, daring, bravery, grit, tenacity, heroism, and gallantry, among other things.
From a biblical perspective, courage is both good and bad.
Courage allows us to do things that we wouldn’t be able to do under normal circumstances.
For example: it gave David in the story of David and Goliath, the courage to take out his sling, load it and take down the 9 foot, 9 inch tall giant who had threatened to kill David, feed his body to the birds and destroy the Israelite army.
Why is it then that we DON’T make more use of our courage in difficult and stretching situations?
The truth of the matter is simply that we give more credence to the negative than to the positive. I talk a lot more about this here under question 3 in particular
Let’s take setting goals as an example.
When you set yourself a meaningful and challenging goal – have you ever noticed how very shortly after committing to and starting to work towards your goal, how your insecurities and self-doubts become so much more visible to you?
So much so that you start to question whether your goal is actually achievable, worthwhile or any number of undermining thoughts that may sway you from your goal?
Right here, in this moment you have a choice to make – to continue on your path or to go back to your usual routine.
Research shows us that 95% of people go back to their usual routine.
Check out Debi Silber in her talk, “Stop Sabotaging Yourself” which illustrates how and why we do this.
And this is just NUTS!
Failure is an important part of courage. Failure helps to build our character and keeps us humble.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear — Nelson Mandela
But failure can also hold us back from achieving the success we were made to step up into.
A Mid-Life Crisis
Let me tell you a personal story about my brother, Gary James Law.
Cars have always been his passion.
“Passion is what drives us crazy, what makes us do extraordinary things, to discover, to challenge ourselves. Passion is and should always be the heart of courage.” ― Midori Komatsu
Gary has raced cars since he was 10 years old when my Dad built him his first racing car, a formula “M” – which is a smaller variation of formula one car – with a 125cc motorcycle engine.
He has won countless championships, awards and accolades throughout his racing career and when we were growing up he and my Dad spent countless nights leading up to race events, working on engines and timing and all manner of automotive mystery to achieve incredible results.
Three year’s ago he decided to change to two-wheel racing (yes, that’d be motorcycles) and in my brother’s true style, Gary chose to set his sights on THE most challenging and difficult of all races to compete in: the Roof of Africa, an off-road motorcycle rally held in the harsh mountains of beautiful, yet rural Lesotho.
Knowing that it would take his wife and family’s support, he talked it over with Lisa his wife and she agreed to give him the year he asked for. At the time, he describes the goal as being part of his “mid-life crisis” – something that he wanted to prove to himself that he could do, just like all the other crazy exploits he had done in his life.
A Rocky Start
When he first started out, his mates took him on bike rides to help get him acclimitised to riding in the mountains on a bike. They had been riding all their lives – him less than a few weeks. One of the exploits they rigged was taking him on a ride where he foolishly underestimated the amount of liquid he should be drinking and he pushed and pushed himself to keep up with his friends. But, when they got to the top of the mountain, he was so dehydrated that he started vomiting……
He describes the pain and suffering of his dehydration and the torture of having to get himself down that mountain as being a near-death experience. He believed he was going to die.
And in his suffering and as he has done many times since, he prayed to God to ask Him to free him of the pain and trauma. But, as an infinitely wiser God who has a much bigger picture of things, He declined to take Gary up on his request
From that ride, Gary realised that understanding your body and building mental stamina was going to mean educating himself and seeking advice from experts in order to create a plan specific to his abilities and capabilities.
He found that he very soon surpassed his school-friend mates who had facilitated his “mountain-side near death experience” by learning to ride his motor-bike better.
He did this through doing more difficult rides and riding longer distances of up to 8 hours. This tested and stretched his technical ability on the bike and how he used his body to conserve and use his energy.
And yet, in spite of months of intensive preparation, planning and practice, nothing could have prepared Gary for the harsh terrain, vertical climbs and even more precarious drops of the Roof of Africa qualifier held in Lesotho.
About the Roof of Africa Hard Enduro
He was doing well and was in the top 100 when he made a rooky mistake whilst crossing a river, stalling his motorbike and losing over an hour of precious time.
If you have never heard of this race, you can check it out here:
Few places are as harsh and demanding as this approx. 450 km route raced over a 3-day period in extremely hot and dry Lesotho.
Riders put everything into preparing themselves mentally and physically for this gruelling event which takes an extremely high degree of athleticism, skill, courage and perseverance.
In this event most riders come face to face with themselves and have to overcome all kinds of adversities, chief amongst them being the overwhelming urge to quit.
Gary shares that particularly on the second day of a race, the challenge becomes focused on your mental stamina and strength.
Your body by this time has started to shut down because it is so fatigued.
Lactic acid build up creates severe cramping and the only way to get through this is to rise above through your mental self-talk: at times harsh and critical and other times encouraging and supportive
But quitting is most often not an option – there’s nowhere to go in these mountains but along the seemingly impossible trail in front of you.
The Roof of Africa is definitely not for the faint-hearted!
Until 1982 the event included cars, quad-bikes and motorcycles and ran right across Lesotho with overnight stops in either Matatiele or Sani Pass.
Since then the route has been contained within the borders of Lesotho, covering ever shortening distances but increasing in technical difficulty as equipment and rider ability has become better and better.
In 2000, cars were excluded and a few years’ later quads followed suite with the terrain being too rough for them.
As the Roof has become more and more extreme, it has earned the reputation of being “The Mother of Hard Enduro”, ranking amongst the toughest extreme enduro motorcycle events in the world and drawing many of the world’s best riders every year.
The Roof’s Three Biggest Challenges Facing Riders:
The ability to continue against the screaming of cramping major muscle groups such as in your hands, legs and arms which signals your body’s build up of lactic acid and the the start of your body shutting down due to extreme fatigue. Stamina enables riders to mentally rise above their bodies and to take control of their minds to get to the finish line.
Two: Managing and Maintaining Your Fuel Supply
Keeping your body hydrated is easier when its hot than when its cold. Gary miscalculated in his first qualifier by not drinking enough because he was cold and getting dehydrated. He also talks about how critical it is to keep eating and replacing salt and electrolytes – that this requires training and concentration during a race because it can become secondary when you are trying to get yourself and your bike down a 1080 metre drop. Treating your body as a machine that needs fine-tuning through constant attention is crucial to your success.
Once your body has started to shut down, your ability to break boundaries that others say can’t be broken kicks in. This is done because you have set a goal and against all odds, your planning, preparations and stubbornness pushes you to stretch limits way past your setpoint;
Gary didn’t qualify in 2016, although he did finish and came in at 261st place.
Learning to be Courageous
And in reality, this is where his story of courage truly begins.
He freely admits to feeling an enormous sense of failure, made all the more raw when his training buddy, Ivo Rugani who did get through, got through the qualifier and went on to race in the Roof and he chose to support him.
As he explains, the team spirit and closeness of working together is so deep that it would have been like abandoning his partner in a war one to save himself. And, he couldn’t do it.
So, he had to face the voice of failure which kept on in his head and which over the 3 intensive days of the Roof told him over and over again,
I wasn’t good enough I wasn’t good enough I wasn’t good enough I wasn’t good enough
I have failed I have failed I have failed I have failed I have failed I have failed
Supporting his buddy Ivo was a lesson in humility that has been hard-won.
Gary learnt that to give back to your friends in their time of victory is a real honour, irrespective of your own feelings and struggles.
And that would have been a bitter-sweet way to end the story. But like most things in life, the rosy ending for his friend didn’t mean a rosy ending for Gary.
I’d like to say that Gary just got on with things, having realised that his dream and the year he spent preparing was not the success he had hoped for. But that wasn’t the case.
He became very depressed because he had not been able to achieve his goal. He was horrible to live with: grumpy and moaning and complaining, dragging his pain and suffering around with him and spreading his negativity at work and at home.
And as is the usual case in a close and loving family, those who love you, give you the most grace. Lisa and their children gave Gary space and time to heal and to come to the realisation that the end of the qualifier in 2016 didn’t mean he couldn’t have another go. That the perception of his failure was not a reality.
He had to face his demons to realise that failure is just a stepping stone on the greater road to achieving and walking in your passion and purpose. And, like most set-backs and challenges, in your failure are the seeds of your future success.
So, when Gary asked Lisa to give him yet another year to achieve his dream, of course she said yes.
And so what began as a goal and dream became an obsession.
Gary realised that he would have to step up; much, much further up than he had ever done before if he was going to qualify to get his chance to race in the Roof of Africa.
He had to face the realisation that the reason he hadn’t qualified was because he simply was not ready – that his preparations had not been enough to get him to the finished line in time.
I also have to point out that at 40, Gary is arguably handicapped by his age – physically at least compared with the natural stamina and ability of the 20 somethings who take part in this event.
He understood that by far his most important challenge was continuing to build his mental agility, whilst at the same time recognising that his physical and nutritional regime needed a rework and overhaul to be competitive.
Check out this great video on building mental agility
Details make the difference
Rather than taking a break after the 2016 season, Gary continued to work at his fitness, his stamina and his mental ability to overcome when his body wanted to give up.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow. — Mary Anne Radmacher
Proudly I have to say that the work and journey my brother stepped up into is the toughest and most grueling I have had the honour of seeing unfold in his life.
Even at work where he would normally jump in the car to get from A to B, he rides on his motorcycle to get around, making use of every opportunity to practice and build his resilience in the saddle.
Persistence, Planning and Preparation Pays Off
And, this year he got to take his family with him to the Roof’s qualifier. For him, this made all the difference. As he says, “There is no way anyone can compete in an event like this without the type of support Lisa (his wife) and my children provide in the way of time, space and encouragement while I am preparing for November. This is a pretty selfish dream I have and yet they are giving me the space to make it happen. They are my inspiration and my motivation”
Coming in at 105th place, in a time of 6:39:31 in the qualifier, he earned his place in the 2017 November Roof of Africa Enduro.
He did it!
But the journey didn't end there. In a lot of ways, it was just beginning (but that's a story for another time).
He'd have to work even harder to create, hone and maintain mental, physical and emotional mastery to compete with nearly 400 competitors in November.
Gary’s “failures” got him to the first step; just the first step on the road to achieving his goal of racing the toughest endurance race known on the African continent.
The Best Bits: Gary’s Biggest Lessons So Far…..
Motorcycling is like nothing else on earth: it provides you with incredible lessons and opportunities to think, to learn who you are and experience profound freedom
Treasuring your family for the immense gift they have given to you
The gentle sense of amazement that Gary has in Lisa who juggles her work which includes regular overseas travel, looking after their children while he is off at weekends and mid-week doing his preparations and still managing to keep their life together. He reckons that a marriage where there is love may be strained with a challenge such as the one he has taken on, but through Lisa’s patience and love, has pulled them closer together
Being a part of a very close-knit motorcycling fraternity – he belongs to the School of Hard Rocks motorcycle club – has given Gary back his sense that people are good. His experience of team-mates who stop to help their buddies at the expense of their own preparations and planning is incredibly inspirational
Developing Your Courage as a leader:
Today, as you think about those goals which you are working towards, in spite of failures, set-backs and self-doubts, think about:
The Afrikaans have a saying that embodies the journey that my brother (and his family) stepped up into. When things get tough, we say, “Vasbyt”
Directly translated it means, “fast bite” but it’s real meaning if you ask any South African is, “to never give up”
Vasbyt Boet (brother) – I am so proud of you!!
Courage is about doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. Have the courage to act instead of react.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes
Ending Off - Questions to Consider
How about you?
- Where have you feared, failed and then gone on to succeed?
- Do you think of yourself as courageous?
- Do you agree that courage means being afraid and acting anyway?
- What acts of courage inspire you most?
Drop me a line in the comments section below and let me know.
Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.
And, if courage is a topic you want to learn more about, check out my range of video teachings on the most commonly asked questions of leaders in my workshops. A few that may be useful having a look at are: “Master Your Mindset” learn to “Bounce Back From Life’s Let-Downs” as well as “10 Habits to a Healthier, Happier You”