Nobody has ever accomplished a darn thing without bravery, and that’s just a fact. Nothing is accomplished by the man who sits in the same seat, eats the same meals, follows the same schedule, and spins the same fables of potential and glory; nothing is done when nothing changes. Now, change is scary, change is tough, and change requires effort; you’ll need to be brave to affect change in the world—no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Now, being brave isn’t easy, and it’s okay for things to be not easy, but because it is not easy, you’re gonna need to prepare for it—you’re gonna need to be ready to be brave, ready to affect change in the world. You’re gonna need barracks into which you can dive when being brave begins to overwhelm you, need a foundation upon which you can stand when being brave begins to crumple you.
You’re gonna need to make yourself a promise.
Admittedly, it sounds rather juvenile, but buy into this for me—take a leap of faith, be brave, and buy into this. You need to make yourself a promise that—no matter how difficult things become on your journey, how steep your climb and treacherous your path—you will soldier on. You will be brave, and you will soldier on. You need to promise yourself that you will never—you will never—give in to your own weakness, you will never allow your cowardice to overcome your heart, you will never allow your spirit to be broken.
Now, that’s all well and good and fiery, but it is not nearly so abstract. When I tell you to make yourself a promise, I’m not telling you to just say ‘I promise to be brave and blah’, I’m telling you to find that person about whom you care most fervently, that person who is invested in your potential and future the same way you are in theirs—your spouse, your mentor, your own mother—I’m telling you to walk up to the woman who raised you, I’m telling you to look her in the eyes, and I’m telling you to promise her that you’re gonna buy her a new car.
Have you ever seen those videos? The ones in which pro athletes surprise their mother, their aunt, their grandmother, whomever, with a brand new car? It’s an awesome moment, it really is:
Now, you don’t have to promise your mother a new car, but that purchase shows something. It’s a demonstration, a manifestation: a glamorous side-effect of the true, hard-earned result of years of bravery. The new car exemplifies the victory won: the level of monumental success that the athlete has achieved. This new car, this glamorous side-effect? This is the promise you make, unto yourself and unto the people about whom you care so deeply. You promise them this visual, idealized, so-perfect-it’s-almost-tangible image of triumph and glory—a picture so strong, so potent, so vibrant and real and alive, it will withstand every wear and woe that may befall you on the steep climb and treacherous path of bravery.
For myself, and for my goal, it is as simple as an empty auditorium stage, several hundred high-school students’ dark faces peering up from the seats, murmuring to one another in questioning and apprehension as their principal or guidance counselor announces my name and my goal: to help them become better, more effective people. I have it written on a sticky note: ‘High School Auditorium’ and plastered to my bedroom door, so that I can’t leave my room every morning without seeing it, without reciting it to myself before I even set foot in the world. I made myself a promise, to stand on that specific stage at least once, if not a hundred, if not a thousand times; I want to be the man on that stage, so I promised myself that stage—that vibrant image that transcends my sloth, my weakness, my cowardice.
So make yourself a promise: a panacea for your demons, your weaknesses. Synthesize a viable, but glamorous side-effect of your goal and idealize it, cleave to it, hold yourself accountable to it for dear life. The waters of bravery are swift and strong: they will take you where you need to go, but they will also run you through rapids, down falls, and into dams. Your promise is your life vest, that will keep you afloat when you feel you can only sink—hold you up when there is nothing onto which you can hold. Make yourself a promise that you will find it, one day: the tranquil pool at the end of the river, where man can rest, for he has done good in the world.