A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing
before. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Paul Harvey shared the story of Ray Blankenship. One summer morning
Blankenship was preparing breakfast when he gazed out the window, and
saw a girl being swept away in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside
his Andover, Ohio, home. He knew that further downstream, the ditch
disappeared into a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the
Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead
of the foundering child. The he hurled himself into the deep, churning
water. He was able to grab the child’s arm as they tumbled end over
end. Despite the rushing waters and the great challenge it presented,
Blankenship managed to pull the girl to safety. Both were treated for
Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal.
The award was fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater
risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.
Courage is an essential trait in leadership. It’s needed on many
levels and can make the difference between average leaders and great
ones. How you lead, the decisions you make and the respect you earn,
in part, is based upon the level of courage you have and how you
represent yourself to those around you.
As we knock on the door of 2014 now might be a good time to reflect in
order to gain some perspective going forward. The courage you need to
lead tomorrow is gained through the wisdom of hindsight. Having the
courage to look back will help you as you go forward. Here are four
ways to do it.
Courage to celebrate the victories.
Every success you’ve had along the way, large or small, should be
celebrated. When you take the time to recognize the hard work and
sacrifices your organization has made and the people who helped make
it happen it’s a morale builder. Don’t neglect the victories you’ve
had. They are the signposts of hard work, sacrifice, determination and
commitment. Move forward determined to relive them often. You create a
winners mindset when you celebrate like winners.
Courage to learn from your defeats.
You don’t want to get bogged down here, but you do need to learn from
your defeats. Learn what you did wrong, what could have been done
differently, and what to do better next time. Defeats can serve a
purpose if you will face them with the right attitude and with a
determination not to repeat them. Did you have some defeats in 2013?
Me too. But I’m not going to sulk in defeat, and neither should you.
Get up. Dust yourself off. Get moving.
Courage to take new risks.
As you close out the year you do so with the advantage of looking back
at your successes and failures in context. Now armed with lessons
learned you can chart out a path for the New Year with greater clarity
and purpose. What you may need is a fresh infusion of courage to take
new risks, branch out of comfort zones that have turned into self-made
barriers, and dare to go to new heights. It doesn’t take courage to be
mediocre, but it does if you are going to take some risks. Just like
Ray Blankenship had to take the plunge into the water to save the
girl, you too, may need to take the plunge in 2014 if you are going to
accomplish great things.
Courage to start anew.
“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway,” said
John Wayne. 2014 is your year to saddle up, face your fears, step out
with courage, and dare to become and to achieve your goals. You have a
clean slate. Be courageous. Dare to dream and take a risk. This is
your moment of courage.
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at