Guts. Bravery. Moxie. Nerve. Courage has many names, but its meaning stays the same.

Courage means fighting for what you love, even when you might get hurt. It means putting yourself out there. It means, borrowing a phrase from Robert Sapolsky, doing the harder thing when it is the right thing to do.

Courage is the driving force behind our favorite stories, real and imagined. It’s an anchor of civilization. It’s a virtue we admire in others and hope to realize in ourselves.

But where does courage come from? How do we get more?

Here’s what I’m thinking: courage is the product of encouragement. When someone encourages you, it means they believe the only thing you’re missing is a little courage.With a little courage, you could start that company. With a little courage, you could do that high dive. With a little courage, you could do that “harder thing,” whatever it happens to be. So, they persuade you to muster up that courage. That’s what we call encouragement.

A person who’s encouraging you is saying, “You may feel scared, but I believe you’re capable. All you need is the courage to try.”

And, amazingly, that works. It works because, as Jordan Peterson said in one of the Web’s most touching videos, “People need so little encouragement, it’s just unbelievable.”

But… what if no one’s encouraging you right now?

Here’s the remarkable thing about (honest & sincere) encouragement: it’s a win-win. Courage comes not only to the one getting encouraged, but also to the one giving encouragement.

The more sincere encouragement you give to others, the more you’ll cultivate courage in yourself. That’s because as soon as you see someone else showing courage, it gets easier to follow suit. As soon as you see someone else succeed in something you encouraged them to do, the path to success feels closer to home. Dreams feel within reach when you can see your friends reaching them.

That’s my $0.02 on courage. How about you? Where do you think courage comes from?

I welcome all thoughts:


This essay is dedicated to my good friend & trusted advisor Eric Courage.

Image via The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928).