"You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally, 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it." Matt Damon to his son in the film "We Bought a Zoo."
I love this quote. For me it sums up the essence of workplace courage. Even though Matt Damon’s character knew the risk of rejection was high and that the chances of looking foolish was almost guaranteed, he still took that psychological risk of introducing himself to the woman in the coffee shop, the future mother of his son.
Courage is a very personal action. No one can truly understand the fears we face, the experiences we bring, the emotional baggage we all have. The difference between thinking ‘what is the right thing to do’ and actually doing it takes courage.
Sometimes the consequences to us and our loved ones are real. Whistleblowers are a wonderful example of how employees have stood up for what they believed is right despite the risks and have often suffered for their beliefs.
We often however overestimate the risks, we imagine that others will judge us negatively whereas most people either don’t care or they recognise the bravery in the action.
So how can we better assess the potential outcomes of our actions?
As Matt Damon says, one way is to recognise that it can only take 20 seconds to see the consequences of our actions. 20 seconds that, if you get it wrong, can be recovered from without long-term consequences. 20 seconds to test the water, to take a small step, to judge the reactions of your colleagues.
What is your next “20 seconds of insane courage” going to look like?