Courage and Fulfillment Have a Story for You

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”  Aristotle

I remember when I was a competitive tennis player. As I climbed the regional and national rankings, I was excited and proud. I wanted more. Before I even know what happened I was focused on climbing higher. It worked for a while. Then it stopped working. I wasn’t climbing any higher. I practiced more, and I panicked more. Instead of playing tennis I was looking to win; preserve my rankings and win matches. When I didn’t win, I was miserable. As a byproduct of this misery, my game suffered.

It took a special coach to turn my life around. Before Tom, I had coaches who were great on teaching me form and technique. I learned the American Twist Serve had the dreaded drop shot down. My forehand was strong, and my backhand was consistent. I had the shots but I was losing matches, matches I should have won. My ranking was slipping. My confidence was slipping along with it.

That was when coach Tom showed up. Instead of having me hit 500 extra overheads, Tom sat me by the side of the court and said: “Your tennis technique and form are fine. You are a good player. You are not losing because of these elements. You are losing because you have lost sight of what you are playing this game for. “I was stunned.  It was obvious wasn’t it? “I was playing to win.” I replied. Tom countered: “No, you’re not, because if you were playing to win, you’d win. We need to find out why you are playing and once you get that back, you’ll start winning.” I didn’t believe him. I thought he had no idea what he was talking about. I thought that summer would be ruined. I was wrong.

We would do the drills, I would continue to enter as many tournaments as I could get someone to drive me to, and I kept losing where I could have won. Tom kept asking me: what was I playing for? And I kept insisting I was playing to win.

After one tournament, seeded #2, meaning I was expected to get to the finals, I lost in the first round. I was devastated and embarrassed. I wanted to quit. I went back to the courts, told Tom I wanted to quit and he asked me to describe what courage meant to me. I was confused as this didn’t seem to have anything to do with tennis.  Uncomfortable with the seeming irrelevant question, I attempted to brush it off. Tom wouldn’t let go. And because he kept asking me until I responded, that became a pivotal point in my life. He asked again what courage meant to me. I had to respond.

Tom’s question changed my life because that question played a part in driving me to who I am today. In Tom’s question he wanted to know who I was, what was important to me and finally, did I have the courage to be that person? Tom brought me to a place of understanding the nature of my core, where, when years later I was introduced to the principle of values, I recognized my values as words that articulate my core. Tom brought me closer to my core by having me look at it. And I did look at it. And I did uncover the reason I played tennis, to strategize, to respond bravely and with intention in tense situations, and to respond appropriately to other’s actions on me. I was finally home, home to what was most important to me and why.

Perhaps this is where Aristotle can be a guide in his words: “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”

To those of you who are on the journey to a meaningful and purposed driven life, I encourage you to determine how courage can assist you in becoming the you that comes from your core. Let courage fuel you to look inside and examine your most honorable why you are here. It could, like it did me, take you home.

Leave me a comment and tell me how courage has helped you “come home.” I’d love to hear from you.

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