What do failure, courage and kindness have in common?  Let’s ask Steve Hartman.

Steve Hartman is masterful at putting heart into stories as he shares meaningful life lessons.  Tony Dokoupil, co-anchor of CBS Mornings, gives the perfect description of this Emmy award winning journalist:  

Steve Hartman finds the best in people and then he shares it with all of us.

If you want a feel-good story (who doesn’t?!) that shares wisdom and heart while teaching you (and your kids) invaluable lessons from real-world examples, check out his series – Kindness 101. He selects themes that develop good, strong character, such as lessons on courage, purpose, determination, empathy, service, honesty and compassion, and delivers them with wholehearted kindness.  According to Hartman, these themes incorporate everything you need to be successful in life.

Today, I thought I’d share his lesson on courage.

According to Hartman, before you learn how to be successful, you have to learn how to fail.  The key ingredient for navigating failure:  courage.

Most of us have an aversion to failure, which means we may not put ourselves on the line if there’s a possibility of failure.  Which also means we don’t get the opportunity for the growth on the other side of the failure.  Which also means we may not meet our potential.  

Let me introduce you to a role model for stepping into failure to find success.  Meet Gerald, the swimmer.

Gerald tried out for the swim team in high school and here’s the kicker – he didn’t know how to swim.  The high school team was the swim version of the bad news bears. The coach’s definition of success was not getting disqualified at the swim meets.  Given the low threshold, Gerald made the team despite not knowing how to swim.

When Gerald first started competing, all the kids were done swimming and out of the water while he was still painstakingly swimming his lap.  Yet he never quit. He showed up, he practiced and he competed.  

To Gerald, finishing in last place didn’t stop him and it didn’t define him – it set him up for success.

Fast forward, Gerald is in his senior year of high school. The team was at the Regional swim meet competing in the 200 yard relay.  The top 2 teams would move on to the state championship competition.  His team was in last place in the relay and Gerald anchored the team. 

This is the moment when putting it all on the line turned the impossible into the probable.  He swam a strong finish, surpassed his competition and catapulted his team to the state competition.

Here’s what makes Gerald so remarkable (as if the above wasn’t enough).  He is a talented athlete out of the water on land.  He could have chosen to play basketball or soccer and easily excelled. However, he intentionally chose a sport for which he had no natural talent and was guaranteed to finish last place time and time again.  Why?  According to Gerald:

“If I couldn’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person?”

Gerald’s philosophy is to not only face fear and never let it stop you, but to seek it out and intentionally work through it to gain the confidence and experience on the other side.  According to Gerald, “Easy is good for 5 minutes, but hard is a better option” in the long run and leads to success.

Gerald acknowledges that being afraid to fail means you have common sense, which can be good and healthy as long as you don’t act on the fear and allow it to stop you.

If you only do things that come easy or natural to you, what opportunities are you missing (or avoiding)?

Let me ask in another way, what is calling to you, but you’re afraid to answer?  This could range from taking on a new hobby, transitioning into a new career, volunteering or starting a new business.

Perhaps it’s time to dig a little deeper, dare to test the waters (pun intended) and take a chance on the success on the other side of the initial fear.

For the full inspiration, check out the Kindness 101 video on courage, meet Gerald, Steve Hartman, his 2 kids who co-anchor the series and be prepared to smile a lot:

I’ll leave you with parting words from Gerald and Steve Hartman:

“When you think the easiest path is the best, think again.”

Stay kind my friends!

P.S.  If this story inspired you, forward it to someone who could use the inspiration and share the kindness!

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Joan Jakel

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