Choose Courage Over Confidence For Long-Term Success

You know what we don’t talk about enough in business? Courage. 

One of the biggest myths about successful individuals is that they are inherently confident. Que all the imagery in magazines, on tv, and online of confident people leading teams, commanding crowds, breaking down doors, power posing on rooftops, interviewing world leaders, captivating audiences of thousands of people, and just generally kicking ass and taking names. While developing confidence can play a role in achieving success, many successful people actually attribute their accomplishments more to courage than to confidence. 

Courage Over Confidence

Courage over confidence is a concept that emphasizes the importance of bravery and taking action despite fear or uncertainty, rather than relying solely on confidence, which can sometimes be overestimated, misplaced, or situational. 

Let’s break it down: 

  1. Courage: Courage is the willingness to face challenges, risks, uncertainty, adversity, and fears head-on, even when you are uncertain about the outcome and despite lacking full confidence or assurance of success. It’s about taking action despite doubts and fears. 

    What is courage’s role in success? Courage enables individuals to pursue new ventures, innovate, and persist through difficulties, which are critical for long-term success.

  2. Confidence: Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance that comes from appreciating one’s abilities or qualities. Confidence is a belief in one’s abilities and the assurance that one can achieve goals successfully. Confidence often comes from experience, knowledge, and past successes. It is a sense of self-assurance that one can handle specific tasks or situations. While confidence is important, it can sometimes lead to complacency or underestimating challenges.

    What’s confidence’s role in success? Confidence can motivate individuals to take action and seize opportunities, making them appear more decisive and capable.

Confidence may motivate an individual to step up and seize an opportunity, but courage enables individuals to take risks, innovate and persevere despite challenges and setbacks over the long-run. 

Confidence is rooted in the known. Courage is rooted in the unknown. Confidence is a feeling. Courage is an action. And action is necessary for success. 

5 Reasons Why Courage is Often More Critical for Success 

Let’s dig in a bit further and explore why courage trumps confidence when it comes to success. 

  1. Facing Uncertainty – Uncertainty is the name of the game in today’s world. If you want to build a business or grow your career, you will have to navigate uncharted territory and deal with unpredictable outcomes. Courage allows you to move forward despite uncertainty. Feel the uncertainty, feel the self-doubt, understand the risk, and do it anyway.
  2. Overcoming Failures – Failure is a part of work (and life). If you’re growing, learning, and stretching yourself in your professional arena, you will make a mistake or fail completely at some point. This does not mean you throw in the towel. Courage will help you learn from these experiences and continue moving towards your goal. Feel the failure, learn from the failure, and get back up and try again.
  3. Taking Risks – If you want a big business, a big career, or a big life (whatever that means to you), then you will most likely have to take a risk at some point. Whether you change careers, start a new business, make a large investment into new software, hire a CEO, or decide to quit your job, you’ll need courage to drive you forward, even if, and especially if, confidence is lacking. Which, it probably will due to the very nature and definition of “risk”! Risks are unknown, which is exactly where courage thrives.
  4. Innovation & Change – Challenging the status quote? Navigating change? Innovating products and services? Then, you’ll need courage to help you embrace the uncertainty and ambiguity. Courage is essential for fostering creativity and implementing new ideas, especially in the face of change.
  5. Persistence & Resilience – Success requires patience and consistency, often over an extended period of time. Success is rarely instantaneous. Enter grit and perseverance. And the willingness to keep going despite initial failures, obstacles, and challenges along the way. The courage to keep going and take action, even messy action, will eventually lead you to the result that you’re after. And along the way you’ll build resilience, and yes, confidence too. 

Successful people may not always feel confident, but their willingness to act courageously is what often sets them apart. 

For example, many successful entrepreneurs start ventures without knowing whether they will succeed. They often experience numerous failures but continue to pursue their vision courageously. Artists and creatives face rejection and criticism regularly. Their courage to keep creating and sharing their work is crucial to their eventual success. And successful leaders and innovators often make bold decisions that involve substantial risk. Their courage to lead and make difficult choices is key to their success. 

The Concept of Courage

Brené Brown, researcher and author, has explored the concept of courage extensively in her work. Brown encourages us to redefine courage not just as heroic actions but as everyday acts of vulnerability, authenticity, and resilience. By embracing these principles, we can lead more fulfilling and courageous lives.

Here are a few of Brown’s thoughts on courage: 

  • “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
  • “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
  • “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences—good and bad.”
  • “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”
  • “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
  • “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

And, let’s not forget about one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

Courage is a key component of success – in work, in life, with our colleagues, our leaders, our friends, and our families. Courage is necessary for betting big in business, making a career change, and having a conversation that is long overdue. Big or small, courage counts when success (whatever success looks like to you) is the goal. 

Dare greatly. Stop waiting for confidence to start taking action. Courage leads to action and action will lead to results. Results breeds confidence and resilience. And thus begins a victorious cycle of courage and success!

Choose courage today and see what happens. I dare you.

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