20 Seconds of Courage

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve admitted to being moved to tears.  One of those occasions was while watching We Bought a Zoo, a family drama/comedy starring Matt Damon. The film was actually based on the true story of Benjamin Mee. It’s definitely worth a watch, but that’s not the point of this article.

At one point in the film, there was a touching moment between Benjamin (played by Damon) and his on screen son.  The drama was at full boil at that point, when Damon said, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

That quote has stuck with me since. And it’s true. What usually stops me–and I suspect you–from doing something uncomfortable is the fear of the unknown.  However, after reflecting on that quote, I had a hard time thinking of anything I wasn’t willing to endure for 20 seconds.

I’ve previously written about being a buffalo. More specifically, being willing to charge into a storm in order to get past it sooner. The 20 seconds of courage mindset is similar. The first time I used it was at ski jumping practice.  I was on a larger hill than I was accustomed to.  It wasn’t cold, but I was shivering from fear.  Like that film Final Destination, all sorts of possible endings flashed through my head as I climbed the steps to the top gate. I had actually been anxiety-ridden for an hour.  

But then, the quote popped into my head.  I quickly calculated that the time from when I put on my skis, slid out onto the bar, let go and then landed,  would be–at best–15 seconds. Reminding myself that I could handle anything for that amount of time, the shivering subsided. I shouted “yup” to the coach and, well, I’m still here, right?

Less exhilarating examples where that 20 seconds has helped me include making a difficult call, confronting someone about something difficult, standing up in front of a large group, and so on.   Since then, I’ve thought of that quote as ammunition–a few doses of courage to help me avoid minutes, hours or even days of agony as I contemplated the task at hand.

Give it a try.  We all have courage.  Sometimes we just need to trust ourselves.

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