What does it mean to be brave?
It doesn't mean that you have to be fearless.
In fact, bravery is being afraid and acting anyway.
I remember when I was learning how to rappel off buildings, mountains, and out of helicopters.
Be brave when others give up
In front of me, I saw big, brave, combat experienced men lose their nerve the first time that we climbed a rappel tower to walk backward over the tower's edge, supported by a rope.
I kept asking myself, what is it that these guys know that I don't? Should I be more afraid than I am?
Don't get me wrong, I was plenty scared but rappelling felt like a calculated risk to me.
I was confident in my equipment and training, I had seen dozens of people safely rappel to the ground. But one-by-one I saw other men walk away from the challenge.
To be brave in that instance I had to trust myself and make the determination that I would get off that tower by only one way--over the edge.
Walking back down the tower stairs and leaving Air Assault school was not an option for me. I was determined to be brave.
I was scared but I rappeled anyway.
Brave is being afraid and going anyway
Stepping up to the tower's edge Sergeant First Class Foster was waiting for me. Foster and the other instructors called us by our assigned class number instead of our names.
"One-eight-four, the only way you're getting off my tower is if you rappel down--do you hear me, soldier?"
"Are you scared?"
In that moment I was unafraid. I was determined to be brave and to concur my fears. I was so convinced that my brain forgot to be afraid.
"You're not scared?"
"Then why are your knees shaking?"
I looked down at my knees and they were involuntarily moving together and apart to the beat of a song that only my knees could hear.
I laughed out loud at the thought of how my brain was feeling fearless but my knees were nearly ready to give way. Foster laughed too before yelling--"Get off my tower soldier."
At hearing his words I began walking back over the ledge listening to the sound of Foster's voice--"Step, step, you've got a good L-shaped position now, hold what you got. On my word start walking down the tower slowly. If you feel good near the end you can bound down a couple of times."
Walk a mile one step at a time
"Go," Foster yelled.
I began walking down the tower slowly but confidence took a hold of me and with two bounds I was on the ground listening to Foster and the others cheering me on.
I had been the only woman to make it through the obstacle course and into the class that first day.
Most of the men didn't want me there--having a woman in the first class of the year at Fort Drum's air assault school broke tradition.
To see me succeed the three men in front of me had just quit earned me respect from my classmates, my instructors, and from myself.
Being brave in the face of fear in this instance gave me courage that lasted my whole life.
Courage is contagious
Once you have learned to be brave you can draw on that experience over and over again.
Recently, I had the desire to live in a different part of the United States. A place that is so completely opposite from any other place that I have lived that my friends and family questioned me at length about my decision.
My choice to move to a small town on the other side of the country seemed a little crazy, even for me.
I had so many challenges to realizing my dream. The weather, the distance, and my inability to drive over a bridge.
How would I drive myself across the country when I can barely drive over a small overpass?
Bridges were impossible. I would have to be braver than I have ever been if I would succeed in this trip.
Be brave enough to live your dreams
Setting out on my trip, I was very afraid of the drive, but I was more afraid of being too scared to live my dream.
Frankly, not trying was more frightening than trying to drive across country and failing.
How to make yourself brave
Step 1 - I was determined to succeed but gave myself permission to try and fail.
Step 2 - I put my intention out into the universe as something that had already come to pass.
Step 3 - I tackled one challenge at a time. I concerned myself with the next three hours of driving.
I made it through every obstacle and challenge those three hours had to offer.
I celebrated my victories and laughed at my failures and near misses--then I began my next three hours refreshed and ready for new challenges.
Forty-eight hours later I celebrated my arrival in my new hometown.
Come back on Wednesday for a more in-depth look at the three-steps to being brave.