You Need Courage To Live

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

My son and I like to watch superhero movies together. Batman, Superman, Thor, Ironman, Green Lantern, X-Men, Captain America- we love it. It is great fun to set aside disbelief and watch the good guys battle the bad ones. As a father I like it because it provides a slew of teaching moments that I can use to try and impart some fatherly wisdom and family values.

The funny thing about it is that my favorite heroes tend to be the guys who have the tragic flaw. I like the darker characters like Wolverine and the Dark Knight version of Batman- but that is a post for a different day.

Sometimes when we talk I try to slip in these little nuggets of wisdom like that Emerson quote above. I like it because it is both practical and true. I like it because it is reminder that we don’t need superpowers or special training to be superheroes. All we need to do is remember that sometimes the difference between us and the next guy is the courage to stand by our convictions and to try.

Always do what you are afraid to do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I often write about my desire to live my dreams and not dream my life. That is always coupled with trying to teach my children to do the same. It is something that I think about often. I think about it because the rules of the blog demand brutal honesty and that dictates that I say that I am not satisfied with my life. There are many things that are good about it. There is much to be grateful for and more than a few blessings. Yet that doesn’t prevent me from acknowledging that I am not happy with a number of things.

It doesn’t prevent me from stating unequivocally that I am responsible for making those changes. It is why I wrote these words: “It is never too late to change the end of the story- We have more control than we realize and less than we want.” It was a reminder to myself that I can change things and that I am responsible for doing so. But it was also a reminder to give myself permission to accept that though I can control much, I cannot control all. It was a reminder of the need for balance and patience.

If I am diligent about working to make the changes that need to be make I have to give myself time to let the seeds of change blossom.

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think of that last line as being representative of my biggest challenges.  It is something that I talk to the kids about because it is critical. Part of making changes and living our dreams is having the courage to take a chance and to not make excuses for why we can’t do XYZ. It is not always easy but it is important. I have relatively few regrets in life but those that I do have are enormous. When I look back upon those situations and evaluate what happened I can see spots where I got in my own way.

I can see places where for whatever reason the thing that didn’t happen can be attributed to my actions or lack thereof.  It is something that I think about because as a father I don’t want my children to get caught up second guessing themselves. Sometimes what is done is done and you just move on or at the least you don’t perseverate on what you could have or should have done. That is the kind of thing that will paralyze you.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fear of failure is another thing that leads to paralysis. Fear of failure is one of the greatest sources of failure that I can think of.  If you want to use a sports metaphor you can talk about how some coaches manage a game by playing not to lose instead of playing to win. I’d much rather play to win and fall short than fail because I played not to lose.

I talk to the children about failure and all of the lessons that can be learned from it. I am very candid about these stories. I am not one of these parents who goes crazy trying to catch my children every time they fall. I need for them to fail a few times because they have to develop coping skills. They have to learn how to deal with adversity. The challenge lies in trying to let them fail without crushing their self esteem.

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ask my kids and they’ll tell you that I say this is critical. Ask the children and they’ll tell you that I would love to be lucky but that I focus on what I have control over. I can’t wish for things to happen. I can’t ask the universe to give me a million dollars but I can work for it. I can take action to try and make my own luck. I can do my best to distinguish between good opportunities and a fool’s errand.

At the end of the day when the lights are off, my eyes are closed and I am alone with my thoughts I want to drift off to sleep with the knowledge that I did my best. That is how I find peace of mind. That is how I recharge my batteries and get ready for the fresh start that comes the next day.

Ok my friends, that is all I have for this post. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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  1. jetts31 November 4, 2012 at 4:09 am

    I thought of the Serenity Prayer when I read this. Accepting what you can not control working to change what you can and knowing the difference between the two.
    The one I like best is letting your kids fail. Its important they know failing doesn’t mean ‘stop trying’.

    • Jack November 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      Hi Jimmy,

      The Serenity Prayer makes sense to me- not easy to follow but oh so important. It makes me crazy when parents don’t teach their kids how to deal with failure. Such an important lesson and yet…

  2. TheJackB August 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    @BetsyKCross I understand. I am a big time thinker and it is easy for me to get caught in the trap of over thinking things. Sometimes the best thing you can do is move. Unless you try you’ll never know what could happen.

    So all those bad things we fear are possible but so are the good. I hate letting fear dictate my life so I work hard to prevent it from happening.

  3. TheJackB August 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    @zjrosenberg Water offers a lot of good analogies for parenting. Ultimately we have to find ways to guide our children so that they can make good decisions.

    If we don’t prepare them for life than who will.

  4. TheJackB August 8, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    @Rob Adelphia I don’t think that I have heard of that book, but it sounds interesting. Got to say that I am in complete agreement about living a life worth writing about. @zjrosenberg

  5. Rob Adelphia August 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    @zjrosenberg Get out of my head 🙂

    You put my thoughts to pen (or type).

    @Jack re: “It is never too late to change the end of the story- We have more control than we realize and less than we want.”

    A wonderful book is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.

    It focuses on living a story that’s worth writing. We can choose to do this at any time.

    What if we all lived with that thought? Powerful, to say the least.

    Here’s to you and me and the rest Living it LOUD!

    Living a story worth writing about.

  6. BetsyKCross August 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Jack,

    I used to think I wanted help with all of my problems ’cause I was getting so tired. You know? Stress was getting to me. I’m not super human either. I still don’t enjoy “problems”, but with age I’ve noticed the patterns that you’ve quoted above are true. I liked “Always do what you are afraid to do” because every time I’m facing something really big that needs some answers I always have this gnawing thought of just what that thing is (to do). And I don’t like it. It’s hardly ever the whole answer, so I’ve learned to just get up and start walking in that general direction. Movement. For me that’s all that helps sometimes. ‘Cause I can over-think anything and get nowhere fast!

    Thanks for the post! Enjoyed it…even though I’m REALLY late reading it!


    P.S. My husband used to love to climb the walls like Spiderman. So goofy! Men are nuts when it comes to super heroes. Spock, Clint Eastwood marathons>>>I don’t relate! HAHA!

  7. zjrosenberg August 8, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Great discussion about fatherhood and manhood. I’m a believer in the quote about believing in cause-and-effect over luck – but also believe that if someone’s not yet ready to abandon the idea of luck just yet, they can at least believe that smart men (through that cause-and-effect) create their own luck. It’s like doing irrigation – water is wild and free, but in digging the right paths in the dirt, you can lead it down the path you need it to go. It’s the same for life and fatherhood – you can “create good luck” for your kids by parenting them correctly, so when something chaotic happens, they’ve got the tools to flow down the right path.

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