by Paula on January 20, 2011

What does the word ‘Brave‘ make you think of? Fearsome knights, battlegrounds, overcoming phobias? It is an interesting word and not one that I’d given huge amounts of thought to until recently.

In the last few weeks there have been 3 incidents that have caused me to stop and consider the word brave and what it means to be brave.

The first incident involved my young son. We were leaving a swimming pool, and while putting on our shoes and coats, there was a boy aged about 8 sat in Reception playing a football game on a Nintendo DS. He was talking loudly giving commentary on the game “And Ronaldo passes to Beckham, and Beckham runs with the ball, across to Rooney and GOAL!” You get the sort of thing. My son watched this boy in fascination and as we left I said to him, “That boy was funny wasn’t he?” “Oh no” my son said, “He was brave”. I thought through this unexpected response and not seeing any bravery involved had to ask why. “Because he was talking in a loud voice even though we were there and he wasn’t scared or shy”. Hmmm, I felt a little sad actually that my (very self aware) son should be in awe of someone who isn’t afraid to just be themselves and not really care who’s watching them. Clearly something he aspires to and as his parent I hope to help him develop.

The second incident was in my work. My work in Social Media has always been one of two jobs. I am self employed but also employed as an Operations Manager. For the past year, I have found the employed work to be dissatisfying and no longer offering the challenges and opportunities I need. I would never put down an employer as I respect and value the opportunities they offer me, but no longer was the job making me happy and the balance with the great passion I have for my own business, has led me to decide to focus fully on that. So here I am, in the last weeks of being employed and about to venture fully into working for myself. Giving up a reliable, steady, income, and going it alone in a time of recession and uncertainty in the job world is something I expected to receive much reaction to – silly, mad, crazy, stupid – but no, the word that has mostly been used to describe this action is brave. So many have shared their stories of taking that step and the hard work, the worries but overall the happiness of being in control and doing something they love. But more than that has been the stream of people wishing they were brave enough to walk away from something that makes them unhappy, but knowing that for whatever reasons there are obstacles that will make them stay. Interesting….

And that brings me to my last brave story! Watching Jungle Book the cartoon the other day with my son, Mowgli was telling all the animals of the jungle that he was the bravest animal in the kingdom.

“Why is that?” asked the Elephant? (Excuse my ignorance but I didn’t catch his name!) “Because,” said Mowgli, “I am not afraid of anything”. “In that case you are not brave” said the elephant, “for to be truly brave you must face your biggest fears and overcome them. If you are not afraid of anything, how do you know you are brave?”

Wow, that stopped me in my tracks. It answered my other questions about bravery quite clearly and simply – bravery is not having no fears, but of having fears and overcoming them.

So, are you brave? I went to a networking event this morning and this simple statement from a cartoon elephant changed my perspective. It’s not the confident networker going up to everyone and chatting with ease that is demonstrating bravery, rather the slightly less sure looking person, who visibly takes a deep breath, holds their head high and battles down all those fears to go up to someone and say “Hello, My name is Paula White. What’s yours” :-)


Julie Leadbeater January 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

Great post Paula. My father, who fought in Burma during WW2, had very clear ideas about bravery. He would have agreed with you entirely. He had little time for those who felt no fear.

Paula January 25, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Your father sounds like a great man. Fear is definitely something that makes you feel alive and to face up to and conquer a fear is a buzz that you could get quite addicted to!

Paula January 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Many thanks all for reading and for your kind and supportive comments. Your shared stories and encouragment will give me even more reason to show that taking risks and being brave DO pay off. :-)

Julia Bramble January 22, 2011 at 11:10 am

Paula, I love your post. It’s poignant and moving and inspiring. Thank you for bringing the worlds of Mum and business woman into one post with the overarching theme of courage. Both roles take huge amounts of this, I feel! You are brave, to step out and go it alone, but you’re also obviously very talented, so I’m sure it will be a fantastic next step in your journey. Good luck!

Paula January 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Thank you Julia. I genuinely appreciate your words. You are right that parenting and managing a business require a lot of crossover talents and skills. I learn from my son as well as teach – it’s very rewarding (and sometimes exhuasting!) but worth it :-)

Joanna January 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Great that you can take inspiration from all those different aspects of your life. How can you not succeed in whatever you decide to do!

Paula January 25, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Thanks Joanna. In days gone by when I used to have time to read books (!) I read one called The Celestine Prophecy and I think the idea of being very aware of what’s going on around you and taking signs and inspiration from that was one that stayed with me. I’m always looking for answers and guidance to save me having to take full responsibility for decisions myself! 😉

Lesley Whiteman January 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

Very true and nicely put!

Paula January 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Thank you for reading and commenting Lesley!

Insa Winkelbrandt January 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

Wow, what an inspiring story! Not that dissimilar to mine, except I’ve started on my self-employed journey without currently being employed.

You are a truly brave woman and will go far!

Paula January 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I wish you every success too Insa. Thank you. x

Graham Harris January 21, 2011 at 10:53 am

This is a lovely piece, Paula, and very inspiring. We’re in the middle of some tough times, as are many of our friends and colleagues. You have given us encouragement with this piece. We hope you (and your son) continue to step out with courage in your daily lives, and all the best for your fresh start in an exciting career move.

Paula January 25, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Graham. I am touched that I have reached out to you in this way. I hope that the difficult times you are going through soon are in the past and I wish you strength and courage as you move forwards. Do get in contact if you need to talk anything through. Sometimes sharing things with people who aren’t closely connected to your situation can help. Best wishes.

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