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  • Writer's pictureJH

Small acts of courage revisited

January 3, 2019

Just about a year ago, as the clock was set to roll over into 2018, I did a post on this blog about small acts of courage. It was my encouragement to everyone who reads it to do just one courageous thing in 2018 and see where it leads.

And in a blink, the year went by.

And here we are.

It snowed here last night. What was green over Christmas is now dusted with white and it feels at last like the new year has come. It’s 2019. My cats are sniffing at the air around the window I cracked for them a few minutes ago. I’m about to take a journey. In the interim between now and van call, I’m reflecting on the past year.

Confession: I wasn’t as courageous in 2018 as I intended to be.

Not that I didn’t do courageous things. I did. I posted regularly on this blog, often saying uncomfortable things about my fears and fighting both self-doubt and impostor syndrome – those twin enemies – along the way. I said yes to tours in eastern Canada and Europe with Sarah Smith, leaving my home to face the uncertain road. I played festival gigs with a new band, Broomsticks & Hammers. I was hired to record a cool album by Phil Glennie. I took on a drum student and even posted a few drum videos on Instagram, which is a real step for me (see the twin enemies noted above).

All of those things made me vulnerable on some level, but the truth is they didn’t take a lot of courage. They didn’t put me outside my comfort zone, challenging as they might have been. The good thing is that last year’s post demanded only one small act of courage for the year, so I can say with pride that I met the quota. In fact, I doubled it.

First, I made a quiet and exploratory foray into the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This I owe to my new friend Big Al, who I met at a party. He’s a big (literally) BJJ guy, and he invited me to a class. At the time I was struggling with some things and it felt like a pretty substantial nudge from the universe. It was intimidating and I was hesitant, but in the end I reached into the back of my closet to find my old taekwondo gi, pushed aside colour belts earned many years ago, and found my white belt. Then I humbled myself, put it on, and stepped onto the mat, there to be pretzeled by much more capable and experienced people.

But I did it.

In fact, I kept doing it, at least when I wasn’t on the road. I went to a bunch of classes, each time facing a fear – fear of getting hurt, fear of being embarrassed, fear of fear. Fortunately the group I trained with are all gentle and generous people and they really looked after me. I intend to dig a little deeper into BJJ this year. I’m lousy at it, but growth is earned in discomfort. It’s good for my character, and I take no little pride in the aches and scrapes I’ve woken up with over the past few months.

My other courageous act was to step down from my band Hiroshima Hearts. I’ve written about this before. It was an extremely hard and painful decision – one that still haunts me, frankly – but I felt it’s what I had to do if I was going to be available to tour and work as a drummer. My schedule wasn’t fair to the band. I had to make a decision and in the end, after months of agonizing, I did what I feel is the courageous thing. I wanted to see what might fill a void left by that small act of courage. When I find out I’ll let you know.

I want to point out now that if I wasn’t all that courageous this year, it wasn’t because I ran away from things. I said yes all year long. Sometimes the opportunities don’t require much courage. That’s the point, really. As you exercise courage, it grows. There was a time when I would have hidden from festival gigs and tours. Saying yes to those things with confidence is the result of taking small courageous steps along the way. It all begins with that first act.

So what was your small act of courage in 2018? What small step are you looking forward to taking in 2019? What dream are you sitting on? What do you keep hiding from? What incremental – or giant – thing can you do to move you closer to that dream this year? Whatever it is, do it. Screw up your courage, push past your fear, and do it.

You have no idea where that one simple act might lead you this year. Take a shot and let me know how it goes!

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