Lessons in courage

July 13th 2021

Giving a voice to some of the most infamous and complex figures of our time, John Bell offer glimpses of insight into some of the most fascinating minds in history. So what can we learn from these fallible yet formidable characters? John Bell believes that theatre allows audiences to see themselves reflected and transformed through the prism of the lives and experiences of these world figures, and provides many examples of outstanding courage and leadership.

The first step in displaying courage is to be there on the spot in the front line, listening to advice and taking action when needed. Abraham Lincoln spent much of the American civil war visiting the hospitals, the battlefields, his generals at the Telegraph office. He listened to advice from everybody, taking charge when he needed to. At the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V led a half-starved army of English soldiers against the French army five times its size. And he defeated it through good tactics, optimism, and by displaying personal bravery.

However, it's not always the guy up front waving the flag and banging the drum who displays courage. Often it's the foot soldiers slugging away patiently in the background.

Great oratory is not always necessary. Sometimes actions speak louder. Courage is having the guts to get up and try again, no matter how often you've been knocked down. In the words of Nelson Mandela, "Courage is not the absence of fear, "but the triumph over it." Because there can be no courage unless you're scared.

Courage is doing what you're frightened of. In the words of John Wayne, "Courage is being scared stiff, and saddling up anyway." If you don't risk anything, you can't gain anything. But don't let noisy voices overwhelm the still little voice inside you. Follow your intuition and speak out even if your opinions are unpopular. Stick to your guns.

The greatest test of courage is to endure defeat without losing heart. In the words of Winston Churchill, "Courage is going from failure to failure, "without losing enthusiasm." If you have been given authority, have the courage to use it and don't play the blame game. If you have made a mistake, have the courage to admit it - and have the further courage to change your tactics.

Courage can be quiet. Something to draw strength from in our everyday battles. Courage is getting up in the morning even when every day feels overwhelmed by anxiety. Courage is going somewhere you don't want to. Courage is doing the right thing even when nobody's looking. Courage says, "I failed today, "but I'll try again tomorrow."

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