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It Takes Courage

It’s inevitable that I will get the question. You’d think by now that I would learn to expect it…that I would prepare for it…or have a response that would be purely second nature. But I don’t. I’ve no standard answer that automatically inspires anyone in the moment to take action. And, to this day, I neither expect the question nor do I have a rehearsed or standard riposte committed to memory.

So what is “the question?”

The question faces those who see disruption all around them. They believe survival requires change and they aspire to fight for transformation. But, at some point in their quest to pursue a new course, a direction in which they deeply believe, they will ask reluctantly, even desperately, “How do I convince others to see what I see” or “how can I get those in control to recognize the importance of what’s happening around us so that we can move forward in the right direction?”

While my response in each moment always attempts to zero-in on the individual circumstance, the truest, most genuine answer that I can share is that…to bring about change does not take technology, it takes courage. And, this is why change is not a commodity. Change is not easy nor is it formulaic. But I can say this with the utmost conviction, and it is yours to define.

We live in disruptive times. As such, everything we know transcends into everything we once knew. How we communicate, connect, discover, learn and share is changing. New and emerging technology is becoming increasingly relentless and it is forcing evolution or complete transformation. And, it touches your personally and professionally. In our own way, we each are gravitating toward dissonance or disarray and it can be distressful. As students, parents, role models, employees, managers, entrepreneurs, artists, or some or all of the above, we will at some point collide with disruption. And in that moment, we will have a choice to make. We either fall down, choose to embrace change, or we will see the possibilities beyond what’s immediately apparent to pave the way toward a more meaningful outcome.

But again, it takes courage. It takes courage to see what others don’t or do what others won’t. It takes courage to push forward when pushed back.

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens one, yet it is the very thing that all leaders share. See, courage takes great strength to stand in the face of pain or inevitable grief and without it, your vision, no matter how brilliant or essential, is merely a masterpiece painted on a napkin—a promise that is never fully realized.

We stand today upon a foundation of uncertainty and apprehension. Everything is changing. What is constant however, is the absence of clarity, direction or answers. To tell you that there is an easy path toward transformation or that there are a series of “top 10 ways” to help you change the perspective of leadership or those around you is, well, misleading or a complete falsehood.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no rules for revolutionaries…just as there are no leaders who don’t continually strive to earn a position of leadership. It takes courage to be a change agent, to rise up and lead the way when others are filled with fear. It takes courage to walk in a different direction when others walk along a contrasting path. Most important, it takes courage to drive persistence to overcome resistance…to find comfort outside your comfort zone when the promise of reward is ambiguous. For, it is the vision to see where you need to go and the conviction to shepherd the march toward relevance that earns the greatest rewards of all, leadership, significance, and advocacy.

This is your time…

“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway

Access the “Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto” for free here.

70 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “It Takes Courage”

  1. Powerful read. Change is the only thing consistent in the world (someone thought of that not sure who). Marching to your own drum is shockingly something most of us fear. I was listening to Tony Robbins and he talks about how people make decisions based on the pain and pleasure they associate with different aspects of their life. I believe being a change agent will require people to associate pleasure with being different and following their dreams instead of associating pain with the process it will take to be different or make change.

  2. Brian Barela says:

    Thanks for saying this! 

  3. Teri Conrad says:

    What fascinates me most about you Brian is how much your voice stands out in all this noise. I think it’s precisely because of your courage! And humility And vision And and and…you are a voice of reason that calms everyone down, so well articulated that makes everything clear and puts everything back in perspective. We really are a bunch of lemmings 😉

  4. hardaway says:

    I hear your personal voice in this post, Brian. That’s what makes it compelling.

  5. Ruth Wagner says:

    Powerful and inspirational post.  Great read for Friday the 13th

  6. Wow!!  This post really hit it. Putting words to the ambiguous times we are experiencing.  And validating that we know we don’t have clarity, direction or answers.  There isn’t a formula to apply to solve it.  When I read this I connected with your message and also thought that change agents don’t take the path of least resistance AND if leaders don’t have the courage to change there will be missed opportunity. 

  7. Luisnovo72 says:


  8. Leonora Reed says:

    Yet another great post Brian- your reply and exhortation is exactly what’s needed to get the ‘Titanics’ of so many business’ models to change course.  I work with companies to help them understand the generational dynamics that are currently in play and what I’ve found is that many companies have their own generational profile- often Traditional- which is obviously deeply out of step not only with the majority of their workforce but with the world at large.  You probably wouldn’t be surprised that this mindset is prevalent not just in the financial sector, but in so many companies in media, the arts and fundraising as well- and of course Seth Godin has just written a manifesto about education… Your piece has inspired me to create a strategy for the change agents that will resonate with the “Finest Hour” mentality- thanks again for sharing such valuable content!

  9. Thank you for this inspirational and powerful words Brian. It perfectly describes what Colin Powell had in mind when writing those words:

    The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you. – Colin Powell 

    We can not fear of being in charge, leading the change and taking the risk. For me, impossible is nothing and I honestly believe that I can do and be what I want. I admire people like you or other entrepreneurial spirits who, by being passionate, can convince masses to their ideas. 
    I am an aspiring entrepreneur building my first start-up – Evoque – a web platform for PR and Media Relations. I dream BIG and I try not to get distracted by negative, unbelieving people. With a hard work and a little bit of luck everyone can succeed. 

    • briansolis says:

       Thank you for sharing Colin Powell’s words. I believe mediocrity breeds mediocrity and I too had to break away from it. Best of luck on Evoque!

    • Guest says:

      colin powell?  citation?

    • Ranjini says:

      Brian what a lovely article .I must say just today I was wondering how to balance out the professional and personal line with colleagues . After all friends will never remain friends as they move up the ladder .very rare cases they support you in the inclusive growth . We have important lessons to learn and should continue moving ahead in life with something exciting and self belief !

    • Winn Taylor says:

      Kamila- thanks for contributing the Colin Powell quote- I just forwarded that to a few friend who had been discussing this very topic the other night. Really great!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m all about inspiring positive change. Great post. Thank you for inspiring me.

  11. Brian — you’ve injected me with a dose of inspiration and optimism.  Thank you.  Naysayers erode dreams by projecting their fears onto others.  It’s important for those of us who dream big to be cognizant of this fact and remain laser-focused on what we aspire to achieve.  Cheers to success.   

  12. Theme-Dutch says:

    I just love everything you said here! Our small company has gone through so many uphill battles, but we’ve conquered them all, which we attribute to taking a lot of risks–being much braver than the others. You’re right. Courage demands so much of a person or a company, but there’s really no other road to greater rewards and better opportunities than it. There are no stringent rules on how to achieve it, only that one simply has to be ready for the challenge and live by the fact it’s a whole lot better to try than to spend the rest of his life thinking of the what-ifs. 

  13. Aaron says:

    If we have a clear vision for a change, we normally have faith in our vision.
    As we have faith in a vision, we shall have courage to pursue the change.
    Vision, faith, courage, change …
    Still, I feel the hardest challenge residing in courage. But why?

    Is it the test against my vision about the change?
    Is it the test against my presumed ways to pursue the change with faith?
    Before taking actions and before the results, courage is like a virtual company in me for a bungee jump (=change or innovation).
    In my case, I can still feel the hesitation of this intimate company.

    Any advice?

  14. DaraBell says:

    Hi Brian,

                   I see Brian Solis TV as good example of the courage you are talking about. Many bloggers stick with one meduim. Social Media has the word Media in it for a reason. This implies we are masters of several meduims.

    We need courage to test several meduims. To stretch ourselves and get into experimental waters! Our clients will ask us what we know of podcasting, what we know of infographics, virals and “how does that Youtube work?”  or perhaps “Which is the best Blog platform?” might be asked. 

    After strategy is laid down and defined companies want said strategy to be run by assistants, volunteers, and other ground level staff. We can only give answers to the above questions with rapid trial and error.  You hinted at this nicely in the book you did with Deirdre Breakenridge. 

    Tony Robbins uses a Ning network for a site aimed at college grads. So does Seth Godin with Triiibes. Sometimes the greatest adaptiveness can be glimpsed in Personal Brands. It’s a flexibility that larger brands could emulate. It’s a rapidness that getting at.

    Community will make great brands endure once a company has say 2 million followers on Twitter.  Starbucks could take a look at Chris Brogan or Problogger to see how to manage community and extend longevity and mindshare. Enduring bloggers have taken risks and fostered above all community, this is where brands need to go next.

    The way has been cleared! 

                                                            Thanks Brian


  15. markbrian says:

    If we continue to do today what we did yesterday, we are doomed to fail tomorrow.

  16. Alexandra Larsen says:

    This was sent to me by my colleague, who said that it was too good not to share….He was right!! Thank you for an extremely inspirational article which is, of course, fantastic for our professional lives and, in my opinion, also a brilliant ‘brick in the foundations’ of raising our families. Thank you for reminding me of this 🙂 

  17. AbhirDayaram says:

    Awesome article and excellent, inspirational points Brian! Courage comes in many forms indeed.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Yes, have to agree with some of the others. Inspirational. Thanks, Brian. 

  19. Cederick Johnson says:

    Wow, Brian! I was first introduced to your work in 2010 when my graduate professor had our class read your book, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.” I must say, you continue to inspire me to push boundaries and take risks. This was awesome! It read like a transcendent political speech, and yes, I absolutely heard patriotic theme music playing in a my head. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  20. Ashlee Chu says:

    Inspiring & Encouraging. 
    One of my favorite quotes – “Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway

  21. Anjula Ram says:

    Brian, thank you! I am new to your blog and thoroughly enjoying it!

    Nothing in this world is static, everything is always changing. I believe it boils down to whether we are leading, embracing, following, or rejecting the changes around us. In todays world of technology, where everything is changing at a much faster speed, to even willingly lead embrace or follow becomes a challenge in itself because there is a disruptive amount of movement out there. Whether looked at from a professional or personal perspective, I think it becomes a matter of having to filter what is relevant in ones world, and then making  decisions on how maneuver ones self in that arena.I love how you speak about courage! It is so often referred to as something you just pluck up and do and then you’ll be fine. The truth is courage comes hand in hand with fear, as so beautifully put by Ambrose Redmoon ‘courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.’ This is one of my favourite quotes, and one that I refer to regularly when transitioning.It takes courage to accept we don’t have it all figured out. It takes courage to choose how to relate to the ever changing world around us. It takes REAL courage to action what is true to us.


  22. Max Minzer says:

    Thank you for inspiration, Brian!

  23. Terence Chan says:

    Well said Brian. Perhaps a pragmatic first step to change is to conduct an objective assessment of what is stopping businesses from progressing forward in the first place. Positive change is as much a pitch as it is a modern necessity, and senior management won’t buy in unless we can successfully context desired change in a way that they can instantly relate to – that it is a continuous learning process and not an end in itself.

    The classic planning cycle still works well in this regard;
    1. Where are we?
    2. Why are we there?
    3. Where could we be?
    4. How do we get there?
    5. Are we getting there?

    Promoting change as an instant fix to quick ROI improvements and “the promised land” puts too much undue starting pressure on both the approvers and doers, and company constraints – a very dangerous game to play indeed.

     “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight Of The Buffalo

    • briansolis says:

       Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and also the Belasco and Stayer quote. I agree, change for the sake of change is also akin to adoption of new technology for the sake of doing so or saying that “we’re customer centric” because it’s now trendy to do. Change is because of opportunity or risk of losing opportunities. But you’re right, it’s either a pitch…or it’s because leadership sees a new direction and pushes in a new direction.

  24. Thanks for the post. We all need to aspire to a positive change. 

  25. Bet on America says:

    Sorry but this article seems to be content free. You could take a dozen platitudes from the web on courage and slap this article together. It comes across as simple as A is A. 

  26. Brian,
    Just read this post a second time.  I guess it offered me some encouragement and maybe just a little hope that there is someone out there who gets it !  Sorry if that sounds too dramatic. It is not my intent.  For the past 8 years I have been on a journey of sorts trying to get others to see what I have learned.    It’s not easy swimming upstream while the bean counters want answers or money.  For me what keeps me fighting is BELIEF.  I believe the old rules of business are a bust and the answers to success lie not just in our bottom lines but how we treat people both stakeholders in our collective businesses and society at large.  Thanks again for your words of encouragement.  

  27. Mike Troiano says:

    Great piece, @BrianSolis:twitter . Change is the only constant. Key is to accept that, and focus on how you respond to it.

  28. Jose Palomino says:

    Courage is definitely key, and goes hand-in-hand with adapting.  Sometimes you’ll be going in one direction and suddenly realize the importance to change directions – and FAST.  In order to adapt, you’ll need to have that courage — because we all know how scary it is to leave your chartered course.  But today, it’s all about adaptation — about being willing to take risks and learn something new.

  29. Courage is definitely key, and goes hand-in-hand with adapting.  Sometimes you’ll be going in one direction and suddenly realize the importance to change directions – and FAST.  In order to adapt, you’ll need to have that courage — because we all know how scary it is to leave your chartered course.  But today, it’s all about adaptation — about being willing to take risks and learn something new.

  30. Nadine says:

    Hi Brian – great post… It has always taken courage to institute change and there are many examples throughout history… Rosa Parks comes to mind immediately… Excellent insight. Thank you.

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  32. Winn Taylor says:

    What a great series Brian. Very inspiring and passionate. A quote that has always stuck with me, “Courage is action in the face of fear.” Truly we so often use fear as a guide as to what not to do, when in reality it quite often is on the fringe to the unfamiliar…the unknown. And I have recently begun to consider that it is a bold leader who is willing to take responsibility for the inevitable consequence in order to create opportunity.

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  34. Midwest Farm Girl says:

    Thanks for the inspirational message! This really hit home for me as I just moved to a new city for a new job, not knowing what I was getting myself into. Come to find out, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made! All it took was a little bit of courage to step out of my comfort zone!

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