April 11, 2019

29. Courage

Courage – what is it?

Courage is a topic Pricey has been avoiding talking about on Universal Man. If you had said to Pricey as a young gun – has he got any courage – he would have said no! Because as a young man he would have been rating himself on whether he had the courage to tackle someone on the footy field or the courage to swim a mile or two or three. Pricey saw courage as a young man as purely a physical thing.

Often in our youth we see courage as purely a physical type of thing so as a boy of 12, 13 or 14 of sense of what it meant to be a man – because Pricey compared himself with that stereotype of courage – his sense of being a true man was shattered.

Courage means that you are in a particular space and you can fight, flight, or you can grow to be a better, more complete man. You might hit a fork in a road at different points in your life. You’re stuck with a choice. Do I run into that tackle or make that tackle or do I run from it? I’ve got a difficult conversation to make at work. I can either do it or not. And do I avoid it and live with the consequences forever and a day? or do I make the hard call and do the hard conversation? These choices may well be (and often are) when you are at home as well.

The forms that Courage takes

There’s something going on inside of you that you’re avoiding it and it takes courage to take the other path, take that other fork in the road and go a different journey. That’s what courage is. We talk about it having three forms. Physical, doing something physically challenging. Social or moral courage, and internal courage; knowing yourself and growing yourself just purely internally.

There’s something about us blokes. For us men, the physical courage dimension is huge. We often define one another with that term. If you have physical courage you really are a man, and the counter thing about that is, if don’t perceive yourself as having physical courage then you are a coward. If you don’t physically do that thing, you are a coward, and we hate that term.

For we men there’s nothing worse than being called a coward. This comes from way back where it was the warriors and the fighters that led the way. They were put on this pedestal. These days we use football players and the military and things. Sometimes that’s justifiable, but it’s only one form of courage. If you’re putting someone on a pedestal purely because of what they can do physically, in a physical sense, it’s underestimating and selling us all cheap, because physical courage, while important is not the most important form of courage.

Why? What is it about Physical Courage?

We have often wondered why – what it is about the physical courage and the coward stuff that we really put so much into. What’s going on? So often it’s the sense that as blokes we want to belong. We’re part of a tribe, we’re part of a pack. That belonging and the fear of not belonging, the fear of being rejected, is huge. So for so many of us that physical courage is an easily seen, demonstrated testimony to courage. We ‘take one for the team!’

So often for we men when that flight or fight moment comes in, maybe it’s a footy game or whatever, martial arts or a fight or something, we’ve always respected the person that fights. The person who stands up and courageously looks a demon or an enemy in the eye and takes them on with courage and expresses himself in that moment. And that is a wonderful thing to overcome. It is a wonderful thing. There’s no doubt about it.

So the challenge then is to not overplay this element of courage. Too many of us when we don’t feel like we’ve shown physical courage in that moment – we start to think less of ourselves; we dump on ourselves. As a young football player Greg did not perceive that he had a lot of courage on the field; he was quick, he could run away from just about everyone. It took him a long time to learn that ‘pain is temporary and glory lasts forever’ and it was when he was well into his 20’s that he learned more physical courage in contact. This courage found itself in choosing to overcome a mental weakness or mental fragility that feared the physical pain in contact. Interestingly, until he faced this fear and overcome it he thought of himself very negatively until he was able to overcome it. The harsh judgement linked to his physical courage or perceived lack thereof had an out of proportion effect on his inner sense of self; his inner courage of who he was.

So the challenge is how to go beyond that making the physical courage everything? It is good, it is so important in many aspects of life; but it is not everything. We’ve seen so many men who in the physical courage stage, you would give them a 10, and then in other aspects of their particular life, we see them doing stupid things and being a coward in so many, many ways. How do we get the physical courage and take that into every aspect of a particular person’s life?

In life, most of our life, the vast majority of life, physical courage is simply not required. Not anymore. What’s required is social courage, moral courage, and internal courage to grow yourself. That’s not something we’ve ever celebrated as a species. Maybe a bit more now. But if you can demonstrate that courage, to be socially courageous and have difficult conversations, or morally courageous and call someone on something that’s just not up to standard for them, or look deep within yourself and go to places that scare you, that’s going to open up some serious doors for you as an individual.

Moral Courage

Pricey was working at a school one time, and the captain of the school, they had a bit of a tradition that on the awards night, speech night, the Year 12’s would give the captain a standing ovation. About a month before the end of the school year, the particular school captain came in and said, “Could we gather all the Year 12’s in the theatre?” So Pricey gathered all the Year 12’s there. The college captain got up and he produced a shirt. He pulled the shirt out of a bag. A couple of guys in the class had made a schoolies week shirt. On the schoolies week shirt, it had something like, “Hey baby, if you love me, you will lay down for me.” The whole idea of the shirt was about sex at schoolies. This college captain was a really great guy, a cool guy, in the Second XV, etc. He got up and he said to all these guys, “This shirt is the worst thing we have ever done. This demeans our mothers, our sisters, our girlfriends.” And he challenged them, and he said, “We’ve had a wonderful year, but this undermines it.”

Then he said, “67 or something of these shirts have been sold. I want them all back within 24 hours.” He got 66 of the shirts back. On speech night, that guy got the longest and loudest standing ovation Pricey has ever heard! There was something in his moral courage, in his social courage, that the other men admired.

Nike: just do it!

We’re going to talk a bit about pitfalls and courage. It is really important time to bring this up. Often when you think, ‘God, something needs to be done’, you feel like you’re the only person that’s thinking that. But everyone’s thinking something has got to change. Everyone’s at the fork in the road and no one’s said anything else. It’s like the elephant in the room. Something needs to be done.

Let’s talk through how you bring some courage to the physical as opposed to the social and the moral and even the internal, because it’s a slightly different approach, really. If you’ve got to put out a bit of a solution for physical courage, perhaps there’s no better solution than to “Just do it!” Like, pain is temporary and glory will last forever.

As he keeps on saying Pricey has never seen physical courage as being his thing – but he has learned that for him, when in a physical courage situation now, he just has to quickly ‘do it’. One time he was working with a group of students and they were doing this paper pole activity and Pricey was scared shitless! One of those outdoor education activities where you climb up a tall telegraph pole, one small rung at a time until you get to a very small landing on top. From there you jump into the air – flying fox on a line back to the ground.

Pricey was standing there, and when the phys ed teacher said, “Okay, who’s going to go first?” Price said, “Me.” Because he knew he had to just do it. But as soon as the harness was on, and Pricey is going up the pole, skinny little legs are shaking, he felt awesome!

Perhaps the trick to the physical is, if you think about it, and you think about the pain and all the negative things that could happen, you’ll never do it. You’ve just gotta have a crack. Bring your energy, bring your courage in that moment, and just, regardless of what could happen to you, have a go, because you’ll be so proud of yourself at just having a crack at it.

Everyone’s got their own particular physical challenges. It could be the courage of the guy who runs the whole of a half marathon. There’s the guy who goes caving. Everyone’s got their particular form. Just do it.

All of that’s a very different scenario to moral courage and social courage. We’re talking about environments where something’s not right. You’re sitting there, well, there’s a conversation that needs to happen, I’m not happy with what’s happening in this particular relationship or this particular team at work or at home with your partner or a child or a mate, a situation where things are getting out of hand and people are doing things that maybe even you used to do. But now, everyone’s moved on and matured and grown and it’s not acceptable anymore. And someone needs to say something.

In these situations – when you reflect later – part of the wisdom is to gently ask yourself, why, why am I afraid to say something here? What could I actually lose here? Do I think everyone’s going to turn on me and go, “You are a fool” or something? Almost always, the answer is no.

In these moments, generally, you’re hallucinating – imagining, have all sorts of visions about these things that could all go wrong. Oh, and you’ll be hated and not accepted and you won’t belong anymore. You tend to think of all the bad things, and you lose sight of what the outcome is. At this moment, you’ve got to work out, keep your eye on the prize. Begin with the end in mind. What do you really want to achieve here? Is this about taking everyone to a new space, a great space? If you just have a difficult moment, is that going to be worth it in the long term to get to this wonderful place that everyone wants to be at? Always think, how did I get here, but really, where do we want to be?

And to do that in some small little way, it’s not about winning some huge type of war. It’s just the small moral choice, the social choice to find that courage in the small thing. Our experience is once you do it once, once you make that little choice in the small, it gets easier and easier.

In those moments, if you’re not sure what to do, speak to a mentor or a mate or a coach or whoever. Go talk to someone, because what you’ll find is this collective wisdom of chatting to a few people will make it a lot easier for you. Sometimes you might be sitting there thinking, you know what? Maybe I’m just wrong on it. Maybe I’m just wrong. And talking to someone else will probably set you free of that. So often with the mentor or mate, many a time they have been in exactly the same situation as you!

Then in the end, what it’s going to come down to is what are you going to do? You can choose the moment, but you’ve got to say, this is a big move, like a big moment, a sort of small moment, a quiet conversation, a public demonstration of something. You’ve got to work out how this is going to change. When you do that, that’s when you’ve got to dial up the courage. Okay, this is going to happen now. Now I need to dial up some serious courage. Dial in my bravery from within and then do it.

Again, like the actual physical thing, just actually do it, here, same applies here. If you’re feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation, your values have been compromised, don’t go making a big, big thing about it. Just quietly say no, I’m not going to do it.

Greg works in the business world a lot, and a lot of the people he works with, they’re not sure how to hold someone on their team accountable. They dance around the issue, admiring it for six months, 12 months, forever. But if you just quickly say, “Hey, what’s going on? Why is your performance like that? How can I help you?” All of a sudden, they often say out of the bag, everyone’s talking about it, and you can move on. It’s not as simple as that, but I’m saying, have the conversation as quickly as possible.

Courage and pitfalls

There’s some serious pitfalls in this whole journey, because a lack of courage or feeling like you personally don’t have courage can really affect you. It compounds in your own psyche, your own confidence, because you just keep taking the easy path. You lose your self esteem. Every day you put the difficult choice off, the particular perceived area where you need courage gets bigger and bigger, so you put it off, you put it off, it gets bigger. You avoid and avoid. If you can just do it quickly and say, “Hey, no, I’m not going to go there.” I think it is this sense of, I’m the only one, I’m the only one who’s thinking this particular way or going through this particular situation / experience – I’m the only one feeling uncomfortable here, going through this. Mate, you certainly aren’t.

Another pitfall is just pure isolation. In these moments, you don’t talk to anyone about it even. If it’s a problem with your mates, you don’t talk to your partner. If it’s a problem with your partner, you don’t talk to your mates. Just talk to someone about it. Lay it out. Do a bit of deep thinking about why is this upsetting you, how did you got here, what do you think you should do, then talk to someone and get their wisdom.

You actually may go through a small period of time where you are on your own, when you do speak up, when you do claim your particular values. For a short period of time, you are feeling that. But then quickly, that will go, and you’ll feel a sense of yeah, I’m so pleased I did. So pleased! Every time Greg felt like he’d taken his own journey and played to the beat of his own drum and maybe said something, he always felt like there’s been respect afterwards. Every single time. Because it was linked to his values and he was right. Here’s a classic challenge particularly for blokes, because as you go through a life of maturity, some of the things that we all used to do, maybe when we were 18, 19, 20, even 25, you grow out of it. Then when you go to say something, you feel like you’re being a hypocrite. Like you’ve got this double standard and they’re like, “Hey, well, you used to do this.” And you’re like, “Oh. Now you’ve taken away my power to say something.”

That is a cop out and an excuse, because we all mature. The things we all did as kids, of course as you get older, they don’t make sense anymore. It’s not really right for someone who’s 30 or 40 or 50 to do what a 19-year-old does. You can’t keep the Peter Pan syndrome. You have to grow out of the stuff you did as a kid, and that takes courage.

We have all lost count of the number of times we’ve seen someone who lacks courage and they then create this victim persona, and they are blaming everyone else, they’re dumping on everyone else. It’s this person’s fault, that particular person’s fault. Part of courage is in small ways claiming I’m actually responsible. As it says in the poem ‘Invictus’; “I am the master of my master, I’m the captain of my soul!”

Another pitfall is that we place people on a pedestal. Maybe if someone had physical courage, maybe if one of our mates was the captain of the footie team or something when we were young, we put them on this incredible pedestal, because they’re physically courageous, and then we can’t challenge them socially when they do stuff that’s questionable. Or at work we put a peer or a boss or someone on a pedestal, even maybe someone that reports to us, and then we lose our own personal power. That is such an important thing. Don’t put people on a pedestal. They’re even with you. They’re not below you. They’re even with you, and that allows you to maintain respect and dignity and, I suppose, just take the power imbalance out of that discussion.

That person has fears just as you’ve got fears. They’ve got uncertainties just as you do. It’s a little matter of, don’t try to win the great big battle. You’ve got a small little fight here. You’ve just got to win this little fight, get out of bed tomorrow morning, say what you really want to say, claim that small little fight, and then the battle will be won. It’s the small little moments of courage again and again and again which make you unbreakable.

And it’s positive. When you’re finding this particular courage, when we’re on the journey to it, look, you become unstuck, you’ve got a sense of your own self. The energy will begin to flow. You will have a quiet confidence and a peace and a sense of your own self. It’s extraordinary. And it’s liberating too!

And it links to our pillars: Know thyself, grow thyself, and brotherhood, because it is hard at times, and when you’ve got to look inside your own soul and find out why maybe you’re fearing something, why courage is required, it’s not easy. That’s about knowing thyself and growing thyself and connecting to your brothers, holding them to a higher standard, holding yourself to a higher standard.

When you look around and you see your particular mates, and you can see in every one of them a person who in little ways has chosen the path of courage, you really have a sense of us, and that particular brotherhood is a special one and has a power to it!. Courage is between you and you and nothing else matters.


The positives in claiming your inner courage are great. When you choose these small moments of physical, moral or social courage, you’re growing your sense of self. Your confidence is there. Problems that you faced before, you find a way around. You’re not a victim. And when you do it again, and again, and again, those little things, it’s liberating for you as an individual. Your self esteem really grows. You find the courage to look inside yourself, to go places that scare you and take your brothers with you; that is special!

Greg and Pricey want to leave you with a poem by Peter Dale Wimbrow;

Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in this struggle for self, 

And the world makes you king for a day, Then go to your mirror and look at yourself, and see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, your mother or wife, Whose judgment of you – you must pass, The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the guy staring back in the glass.

He is the man you must please, never mind all the rest,

For he’s with you clear up to the end.

And you have passed your most difficult and dangerous test, when the man in the glass is your friend.

You can be like another and chisel a plum,

And think you’re a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum,

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world, down the pathway of years, and get pats on your back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartache and tears,

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass!