Behind the quote: What is courage?

CourageWhat comes to mind when you think about courage?  Do you think of soldiers in battle defending freedom at any cost?  Those that have taken great risks to affect social change? People that have proven through their own fortitude that not giving up matters?

Those are some of the examples I found when researching around the idea of courage – these people that engaged in their lives and in their world. We are the benefactors of their choices, their courage.

It is easier to recognize courage when the battles fought have been won. But that is not where it begins.  It begins in the essence of our character. That is where courage is born. That is why the stories of these heroes matter. Their stories allow us to draw from their example to find courage of our own.

Here are seven quotes on the subject from some proven champions from history.  Each one has a kernel of universal truth in it about courage.  We will need courage to become everything we are meant to be now and in the future.  It takes courage to grow, to change, to speak, even to love.  Do some research – learn more about the life behind the quote.   Their example and words can be a catalyst for change in our own lives if we allow ourselves to be open, to have courage.  Let these become a touchstone to spur you on to your own greatness.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  (Winston Churchill)

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”  (Margaret Thatcher)

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” (Martin Luther King)

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”  (Rosa Parks)

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” (Henry Ford)

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” (Dale Carnegie)

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)


Celebrating a life – learning from a legacy

MLKJRMartin Luther King Jr.

He was born in 1929.  He only lived to be 39.  And yet fewer lives have impacted the world to such an astounding degree.  At 34, he delivered a speech that is quoted everyday over 50 years later.

His time on earth ended tragically but his legacy lives on.  Because of his life, we are changed.  And because we are changed, our world is changed. This is the lesson we all need to embrace.  What determines our true impact on the generations to follow is going to be the example we set with our lives.  Because there is more learning and growing needed.

As we continue to learn from him and celebrate his legacy, here are ten lessons just as relevant and needed today as they were when he first brought them to the world.

In his words:

  1. The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.
  2. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  3. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  4. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
  5. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  6. Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?
  7. That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
  8. The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
  9. Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
  10. Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.


Behind the quote… lies true inspiration.

Quotes are like little pockets of life all sewn up in a few words.  They remind us of our humanity, our potential, even at time our losses.  Sometimes the quote itself, just the words, is sufficient to inspire the moment.  But quite often, the true inspiration and value comes when we know the story behind the quote.   Over the years, there have been many times when a quote has crossed my path and has paused my step.  There have also been times when the words re-directed the next steps.  And there have been times when the words have kept my steps going.

One of those quotes showed up in my news feed on Facebook yesterday from a friend.  The timing was impeccable for my journey.  Here are those words:

“You never know what is around the corner. 

It could be everything. Or it could be nothing.

You keep putting one foot in front of the other,

and then one day you look back

And you have climbed a mountain.”

The tapestry of these words was so rich in color and texture I wanted to know more and did some research.  I found a beautiful video where the words are spoken.  The story is the inspiration.  The words mean more when you know what is behind the quote.  We cannot give up on our journey.  We must keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And one day we will look back and find that we have climbed that mountain.  And we are our own champion.



Behind the quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Writing_RHe remains one of the most influential and quoted writers of 19th century America.

What is interesting however is that some of his most successful writings did not begin in fact as essays, they started out as speeches he gave to audiences and later published.  Another notable point is that he was an early “self-publisher”.  He delivered an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge in 1837 which ultimately became the work known as “The American Scholar”.  At the urging of friends, he published it himself at his own expense. 

He also wrote his own musings in journals and it was his influence that resulted in Thoreau also starting to journal.  The Harvard University Press has published his journals in 16 volumes and some believe it contains some of his best work.  That’s not surprising to me given that the creative freedom of personal journals does often result in bursts of brilliance for most writers.

Another point worth mentioning is that he was also one of the early adopters of lecture “series” and he found that by approaching the market as a lecturer in this format gave him a much higher return financially.  At one point he was doing as many as 80 series a year and traveling a great deal.

When Walt Whitman first published his signature work Leaves of Grass, he sent a copy to Emerson for an opinion – perhaps an early “review”.  When he received a positive response, it stirred up market interest as well and a second edition was published.

What is the significance of all of this? It gives us insight into who he was and how he operated.  It helps put the quotes we have attributed to him within a context that makes them more crystallized.  It also speaks to the fact that success leaves clues.  Why do we still after nearly 200 years quote Emerson’s writings? Because he didn’t just write words.  He discussed ideas and presented new thoughts.  He delivered his message across different medias.  And he supported the work of others. His own private writings and observations of life in his world remain salient now.  One of my favorites of his thoughts is that “..The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men around to his opinion twenty years later.”

Our legacies are what live beyond us. In that respect, we are no different from Emerson. Although I have many fundamental philosophical differences with the man, in many areas his philosophies do resonate with me. Perhaps they will with you, too. 

Emerson on using new experiences as a way to put the past behind us:

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Emerson on our individual uniqueness:

Insist on yourself; never imitate… Every great man is unique.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.

Emerson on character:

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

And my own personal favorites:

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

And in closing, what would he say about this blog post? Perhaps he would say again: “…I hate quotations.  Tell me what you know.”  I love that.

Oil for your lamp: Where do you get yours?

Oil LampOne of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Mother Teresa is her statement that “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”  This is one of the most quoted lines from her but the beginning part of the statement is also important.  She said that “If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out.” And then – to keep that message burning, we have to keep sending it out.

This principal provides perspective for why we need to be constantly sending love messages to ourselves so that the oil from our own lamps can light the path for others.  So how do we in fact do that? Surrounding ourselves with supportive and loving people is part of it. Finding activities that nourish us spiritually and soulfully is another part.  What we read and consume is another.

Making sure we do these things routinely as a matter of course is the key.

One tool that can help are the many “thought for the day” or “quote for the day” services that can deliver “love messages” to us via e-mail or social media.  These have been really valuable for me as they allow me a few moments at various times of the day, week, month, etc. where I stop and absorb that positive missive.  A favorite of mine is the desk calendar that comes from Hay House because it marries wonderful images with really insightful thoughts for each day.  Here are my favorites from the first four months of 2013:

January:  I am filled with gratitude for all of the blessing of my life.

February: What a great adventure life is!

March: It is only a thought, and a thought can be changed.

April: I truly believe that we are here to bless and prosper each other.

Imagine starting the day with the reminder to be grateful.  It sets a tone that can change the day.  The same with seeing the adventure in life.  If I see adventure, I see opportunity.  I’ve often thought of being a Mom as the greatest adventure of all time! If we remind ourselves in the morning that thoughts are in fact just thoughts and that they can be changed, we empower ourselves in our thinking which in turn empowers us in our actions and our results.  And finally, if we know our purpose, everything else falls into place.

Why did these four resonate so profoundly with me? Because they “tuned in” to my frequency.  They are statements that reflect my own point of view in a validating way.  They can also serve as reminders of my philosophy so that I stay in focus.

We see what we are looking for.  So set the expectation early.  Put the right oil in the lamp so your flame can burn and send that love light to you and all those you touch.

How are you going to keep oil in your lamp today?