Success Is Impossible Without the Courage to Act Boldly

UPDATED: September 13, 2016
PUBLISHED: September 13, 2016

Do you know what the riskiest thing you do is every day? The thing that requires the most courage?

You probably don’t give it a second thought.

The most courageous thing you do on a day-to-day basis is getting into a car and driving down the street. Really. We don’t think of driving as a big risk, because we do it safely day after day, decade after decade. But we are all aware of the inherent danger. Each of us knows someone who has lost his life in a car accident. It’s tragic, but it happens all the time.

Related: Afraid of Risks? How to Be Bolder

The simple physics of the act make its danger obvious: Each of us straps ourselves into a giant tin can, propels said tin can 70 miles per hour down the highway surrounded by other giant cans, passing by trees and brick walls—passing over large, frigid bodies of water in cans that don’t float! At all times, we’re but a moment away from peril. Driving down the road singing along to “We Built This City (on Rock and Roll),” you’re just one big sneeze away from accidentally jerking the wheel to one side or another and saying goodbye to… all of this. Not goodbye to a few hundred bucks, or to a little bit of your time, or your pride, or your feelings, or even your home or retirement fund. Goodbye to all of it. Your very existence.


Success is impossible without the courage to act boldly.


And yet we all do it anyway, without fear, because we accept that some measure of risk is a part of life at all times. No one is ever completely safe. Lightning could strike. A meteor could come crashing through the ceiling. And we take the risk of driving our cars for the same reason the chicken crosses the road: We want to get to the other side.

The reward outweighs the risk. Understanding that is the key to understanding and channeling the courage you have within you.

Imagine the greatness of the reward for the truly courageous act you’ve been considering. Maybe that reward is freedom from a job you can’t stand, scoring a date with a longtime crush, reshaping your own health or helping a family member overcome an addiction. The risk factors don’t seem so scary after all, do they? Of course the rewards are worth the risk.

Related: Why Taking Risks Is Worth It

Success is impossible without the courage to act boldly. Success can require taking creative risks, pissing off people, gambling on your own self-esteem, or in a more literal sense, your worth. But you don’t find many successful entrepreneurs, politicians, coaches or achievers of any stripe who admit to being risk-averse.

The success-shaping power of courage comes in so many forms. Consider the October 2016 cover figure, Sophia Amoruso, the author of #GIRLBOSS and the founder of the online retailer Nasty Gal. At a younger age, she lived off the streets in so many ways. The younger Amoruso was an idealist, rebelling against capitalism. But soon she learned that this outlook couldn’t create the life she wanted. She had the courage to look at herself in the mirror and admit that she had to change. That takes a lot of strength.

We’ve got more tales of courage—of a young woman who rebelled against totalitarian Iran; of men who gamble their lives to chase a passion to understand tornadoes; of men and women who risk everything to protect American freedom. And as always we’ve got stories to motivate you toward courage, too.

I already know how courageous you are. You take calculated risks every day. Will you take a risk to change your life for the better?

Only you know how badly you want to get to the other side.

Related: If You Change Yourself, You Can Change Your Life


This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Josh Ellis is the former editor in chief for SUCCESS magazine. Before joining SUCCESS in 2012, he was an accomplished digital and print sportswriter, working for the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the team’s gameday program, and Originally from Longview, Texas, he began writing for his hometown newspaper at 16.