The courage to believe

The thing about life is you have a choice.

In fact you have choices.

Every single day, every moment of existence is filled with abundance of choice and opportunity.

But despite this, despite the choices that are out there, there are people who fail to take them. Sometimes that is because of a lack of knowledge, sometimes because of a lack of means and sometimes because of a lack of courage. Now I’m not saying that everyone can be anything, I’m not espousing the Thatcherite dream. But I am talking about wasteful inaction.

It strikes me that there are two types of people, or perhaps two types of thinking. There are those that see opportunity and those who explain away opportunity.

“I would but….”

“It isn’t as simple as that….”

“People don’t want/like/believe…..”

And of course in every occasion they are right. Because fortune really does favour the brave.

So you may think this is trite, you may think that I say nothing more than the contents of a fortune cookie. I’m ok with that.  Because, time after time I see people who need nothing more than that.  A positive word, a helpful phrase, a call to action.  Instead, we mock, we complicate and we denigrate an idea…..because that is our way.  Failure is low risk.

But it is also the disease that will eat away at you to the moment that you die.  People who try but fail, people who hope, people who believe. These are the people who make this country great, that make their families proud, that succeed beyond their dreams.

People who mock, people who criticise, people who explain away and deny.  These are the people who go to their graves with regret.

Every day is full of choices. You know that, I know that. Which one of us is brave enough to take them?

Consider the gauntlet thrown down.


  1. Doug Shaw · November 21, 2011

    Hey ho let’s go! The Ramones said this, not Santa. Maybe I’ve eaten too many fortune cookies but my appetite for experimentation and thus failure, is bizarrely what sustains me. I fail many more times than I succeed, yet somehow the scale balances (just about). Maybe failure is actually lighter than success? And that’s odd because failure offers us the great learning that success can only dream of. I long to see failure recast as opportunity. Fear and denial of failure is so limiting. Blimey I’m in a waffle of a mood this morning eh!

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Good quality waffle though!

  2. Doug Shaw · November 21, 2011

    Oh yes, the gauntlet. Sorry I almost forgot. Today I have to point out the differences between what a board of directors is saying, and doing. It would be easy to duck this, to say all is well. I shall not do that. On Wednesday I’m facilitating the Stop Doing Dumb things event, a new and even scary concept for many of our guests. It would have been easy not to make this event happen, or to try and make it conventional. I shall not do that. On Friday, well on Friday I’m stepping into the unknown. I’ll tell you more about that another day.

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      …..and you never did tell me about Friday!

  3. martincouzins757 · November 21, 2011

    I agree that all it can take is a positive word – just some encouragement. I know it works well when I receive such comments. I know that it does wonders for my children too. Well said, Neil. And totally agree with you Doug. A big week for you – good luck with it and look forward to sharing the experience on Wednesday 🙂

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Why don’t we encourage enough? I find this strange, but probably don’t do it myself…

  4. Meghan M. Biro · November 21, 2011

    Live Your Dreams Right Now. Or Else! It’s Your/Our Fault.

    Signed by, Someone Who Cares.

    • Neil · January 3, 2012


  5. Stephen O'Donnell · November 21, 2011

    It’s absolutely right that we should encourage others to have more faith in their abilities, and not to always play safe, but many people just don’t have it in them to take risks (and that’s a good thing).
    I’d like to be a little braver than I have been, but I’ve already risked everything several times, and am planning on doing so again. I don’t think I’m especially “driven”, but there’s something about me that likes to go “all-in” (in poker terms), but I recognise that most people have other priorities, and prefer to play the game differently.

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Aren’t people’s perceptions of risk just different? Couldn’t we all push ourselves just a little?

  6. Mitch Sullivan (@mitchsullivan) · November 21, 2011

    I agree that people need to pursue what they believe in and be brave in how we approach new business ideas or markets.

    But …and there’s always a but, there are a lot of people out there selling stuff that doesn’t stand-up to even the slightest critical questioning. I’m not saying that we should always be negative or skeptical, nor that we should all be bright-eyed and positive about everything either.

    Like most things, getting it right is a balancing act.

    belief + intelligence = integrity

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Agreed….I wouldn’t argue that we should blindly accept….but we also shouldn’t use skepticism as an excuse to hide fear.

  7. HR without ticking boxes · November 21, 2011

    Your right Neil. Its about encouraging others – empowerment wins!!!

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Now there’s a thought!

  8. Gareth Jones · November 21, 2011

    Yes, totally agree. There should be no place for people who mock, or criticise….. 😉

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Agreed…..we’d never do that….. 🙂

  9. Sukh Pabial · November 21, 2011

    This post rings true to my heart, Neil. I’m one of those you describe above. Fortune favours the brave is an excellent thing to live by. It’s why I’ve not passed up most opportunities that have come my way. Not because I’ve not had the courage to do them, and not because I’ve not had the ‘but what if’ thought. I’ve always just thought ‘there’s only way to find out’. I’ve been fortunate in life to date, and for this I am constantly grateful. But also, I think it’s about how we see the world. I would wager that those who do believe and those who do take their chances will see that the opportunities that have presented themselves and either failed or succeeded have been an experience to live by. That’s the camp I live in.

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      And that experience is what makes us as humans right?

  10. Bina Briggs · November 21, 2011

    This is a lot closer to my heart in the last 2 and a bit years than ever when I and ny business partner started our own business. we look at every opportunity and the motto has been let’s try it at least once and see where that leads to instead of saying should we, no better not….!

    I can also confirm what Sukh has commented on above, be positive, seize every opportunity and guess what, they keep coming our way!

    Thanks for the post! x

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      I live in awe of people who run their own businesses.

  11. mastersorbust · November 21, 2011

    I read this earlier today and have been thinking about it on and off all day. A excellent post and it is achieves nothing else it’s provoked me to reflect.

    Someone I follow on Twitter went to something called #failcon in California recently which featured tech entrepreneurs talking about their failiures and what they learnt from them before succeeding. It amazed me to read the tweets coming from this event how these people were comfortable enough to share their failiures and what I found even more amazing was that they just bounced back every time.

    Early in my career I took a risk and in the medium term it didn’t pay off and it was only through the support of those around me, especially my parents that I was able to get my career (and personal finances) back to something resembling normal. The impact it had on me at the time was profound and it’s an impact I know that still exists in the ‘voice in my head’ when it comes to taking risks.

    What was interesting at that time was how some people ran to support whilst others weren’t seen for dust and it was an interesting leveller. What was also interesting was the attitude of those I was interviewing with that rather than appreciate the courage (or stupidity) it took and understand the lessons I took from it treated me like something that was toxic.

    I have seen others close to me take risk both personally and professionally and whilst some have succeeded, equally some have failed and it’s not just the toll it takes on the individual but the fear they feel in admitting failiure to themselves and others. This is what made the tweets from #failcon so difficult to identify with.

    The other point you make (those who mock or criticise) is also one that resonated with me… As someone who often leads with humour that at times walks a knife edge I have come to realise (and still don’t always stay the right side of the line) that what were intended as humourous remarks have at times discouraged others taking risk even in expressing an opinion and made me both as a colleague and as a manager appear intimidating. Also, I have a streak which you could describe as ruthless objectivity or Myers Briggs Thinking which means I usually see the things that aren’t right first and learning to package that in a constructive form is still something that challenges me.

    I regularly meet people who aren’t achieving what they could achieve not because they don’t have the capability but because they have a fear of failiure which actually prevents them trying because I guess when they reflect they can always say ‘I would have been able to do it but never tried’ rather than admitting they went ‘all in’ (Stephen’s already started the poker talk) and maybe lost their shirt.

    • Doug Shaw · November 21, 2011

      Hey Rob – you rock. You’re a great straight talker, a great motivator too. Keep it up – please 🙂

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      Great points Rob. I just wonder whether inaction later leads to resentment….which I’m sure isn’t something you will ever feel.

  12. Kev Wyke (@kevwyke) · November 21, 2011

    What gives us that push towards the choice action potential, what builds our personal bravery to see the opportunity in the options. A friend once said to me “when it hurts enough for you, you’ll jump”, but that feels like the negative side of choice, when really you have no choice, I think this blog points to the positive choices we can make and I’m interested in what gives us the confidence to step away from the comfortable, familiar and safe and choose the unknown, scary, and uncertain that picking up the gauntlet represents.

    Funnily enough, for me it seems to start by having a gauntlet thrown down and being given that gift of ambition

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      I like the thinking behind the positive rather than negative. When we’re forced to act I often don’t think we make the best decisions.

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  14. Natasha Stallard (@StirTheSource) · November 22, 2011

    fantastic blog Neil and great comments by all. Particularly captured by Rob’s comments – he’s a formidable character with a sharp wit and (perhaps to his horror) he may be surprised to hear that I’ve noticed on occasion ‘watching’ myself around him/the things I might say which I sense could rub. Seeing this piece from Rob has connected me in quite a different way to this man – still a formidable force, but one that I love even more!

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      I’ve never worried about rubbing Rob up the wrong way….but I’m glad others do!

  15. Natasha Stallard (@StirTheSource) · November 22, 2011

    ps …. inspired by this, I have also just commented on the linked post by @naturalgrump

  16. Hilary Jeanes · November 30, 2011

    There’s a new series on Yahoo TV with Morgan Spurlock – Failure Club.;
    It’s worth a look. Maybe we all need a Failure Club for support and encouragement – whether we’re brave or not!

    • Neil · January 3, 2012

      I love that idea!!

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  18. Hi Neil.

    Came across you via Esme Decourcy who has just started following me on Twitter.

    I just wrote something on facebook that has resonance with this article and then came across your blog:-

    “Confidence is not a Consequence of doing or being things you could not before. It is simply a Choice to be Courageous when to not be would be an injustice to your authentic being. The moment you choose is the moment confidence shines.”
    ~Jazz Rasool

  19. Pingback: My 10 favourite HR blog posts of 2011 | XpertHR - Employment Intelligence
  20. Pingback: My 10 favourite HR blog posts of 2011 | Employment Intelligence

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