Showing posts with label Risk-taking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Risk-taking. Show all posts

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Lesson in Courage from Wood Ducks

Nature shows are favorites for my husband Lee and me.

They allow us glimpses into the animal kingdom that would otherwise be hidden from us.

An added benefit: Watching these creatures in action often gives us valuable insights for our own lives.

Take for example, the young wood ducks featured in the 2103 Emmy award-winning PBS Nature Program, An Original DUCKumentary.

The mother wood duck lays her eggs in a tree cavity, up to 70 feet above the forest floor. Although she lays just one egg per day, the chicks all hatch on the same day. And just 24 hours later, they’re ready to greet the world.

First, the mother flies out from the nest and lands on the ground nearby. Then she starts calling her babies to join her. One by one they venture to the edge of the nest hole. At this point, their wings are not developed and they’re incapable of flying. So you wonder, how are they going to get out of there alive?

The first one looks out, hesitates for just a moment, and then jumps. You watch incredulously, thinking it’s headed for certain death. But instead, this one-ounce ball of fluff lands softly on a bed of leaves. The others follow in turn, and together they pursue their mother’s voice, waddling behind her as she leads them to the water.

The scene is remarkable. We were holding our collective breaths, wondering how these delicate creatures could possibly survive such a fall. This brief video (1:33 min) shows exactly how they do it.

There’s no place for fear or self-doubt with these young birds. They’re driven by the need to be with their mother, and this burning goal over-rides the brief uncertainty they might experience just before making their tremendous leap.

For me, it’s a valuable lesson in courage.

As humans, we have the unique ability to reason and imagine potential consequences, often to our detriment. We can over-think the situation and allow ourselves to get caught up in negative emotions – projecting bad things that could happen if we take a specific action.

This can lead to indecision and inaction as we become paralyzed due to fear of failure, concern about criticism from others, or doubts about our own abilities.

Next time you feel afraid due to uncertainty about the future, recall the wood duck chicks taking that leap with no assurance of how they’ll land. Summon the courage to act, and you can benefit no matter what happens, as Norman Vincent Peale so wisely observed:

"Too much caution is bad for you. By avoiding things you fear, you may let yourself in for unhappy consequences. It is usually wiser to stand up to a scary-seeming experience and walk right into it, risking the bruises as hard knocks. You are likely to find it is not as tough as you had thought. Or you may find it plenty tough, but also discover you have what it takes to handle it."

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Courage to Make a Change

During the summer of 1982 I was working as director of federally-funded programs for a local school system. It was my second year on the job, and the difference between Year 1 and Year 2 was like night and day.

I had been hired by someone who recognized my abilities and gave me free reign to make improvements to the programs I was in charge of. My first year was fun and exciting as I worked hard to involve parents and to provide the latest learning strategies to teachers whose positions were funded by federal dollars.

At the end of that first year, we got a new superintendent of schools. As often happens with a new regime, people get shuffled around. My supportive boss got relegated to a lesser position, and I no longer worked for him. Instead, his replacement turned out to be a micro-manager who held agonizingly long meetings and stifled my creativity.

On top of that, the new superintendent decided I should take on an additional program that I had no training or expertise in. It was a directive, and I had no say in the matter. That program was politically-charged, and I often had to deal with pressure from different factions when making decisions.

I worked under these conditions for almost a year, as my typical enthusiasm and commitment to my work waned with each passing day.

The final blow came when the principal in one of the elementary schools moved two strong teachers out of my program and back to the regular classroom. He replaced them with weaker teachers and made these changes without consulting with me first. When I protested to the superintendent, I discovered how little my opinion mattered. Principals had absolute power about placement of teachers and were not expected to collaborate with those of us affected by their decisions.

It turned out that I had the responsibility to get results (improved student performance) without the authority to make that happen.

I felt powerless, frustrated and disillusioned.

I started having knots in my stomach each day and found myself dreading Monday mornings. I hated the lack of control over my situation and the inability to directly influence the results I was expected to achieve.

If I wanted a different outcome, I was going to have to do something different. Drastically different.

I could no longer tolerate seeing my confidence and energy drained because of a work environment that was toxic to my mental and physical health.

With the support of my brand new husband and to the shock of my boss, I turned in my resignation in August, 1982. At the time it was very rare for someone to leave what was considered a prestigious position at the school board office.

Even though I had ZERO experience in the business world, I decided that I would become an entrepreneur...

A wise mentor once told me that we’re only motivated to change when the unknown looks better than the known.

You may be hesitant to make a change in your life because you aren’t sure what the consequences of your decision will be. You could be afraid that you’ll be worse off after the change. So you stay where you are, even though it’s uncomfortable or actually painful.

But if the situation worsens, there may come a time when the price you’re paying is just too high. And when you get to that point, you’ll need to alter what you’re doing. Maybe it will be just a small step each day to move towards a future that seems more desirable. Or you could end up like me, leaping into a whole new adventure without a safety net, trusting that you’ll discover the best course of action as you go.

It takes courage to look a difficult situation in the face and acknowledge its reality. You can’t change the players, and it’s usually a waste of energy to try. But you can change yourself and the way you respond to your circumstances.

Almost 30 years ago, I left the security of a paycheck and ventured into the world of entrepreneurs. That journey has had its own set of perils and challenges, but at least I’ve known that I’m the one responsible for charting my course.

No matter what path you’re on, you have choices and opportunities, even amid your difficulties. Will you have the courage to recognize them and take actions that lead to your happiness and fulfillment?
"It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been test your break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin, American author (1903-1977)