Courage: The Path to a Fulfilled Life

As I gazed at the view outside, I see the morning sunlight piercing through the foggy winter of November, 87' in the city of Bikaner, Rajasthan. I am in 9th grade, sitting in the classroom with my friends when my math teacher walks in. He politely asks me to stand, "Sandeep, do you want to compete with the 10th-grade students in mathematics?" "Yes, sir." I blurted out without thinking twice about his imprecise inquiry. As I follow him down the stairs to the 10th classroom, my heart starts to pound. Even while mathematics is my favorite subject, I was nervous about what I signed myself up for. I am sensing an unknown fear now, but for some reason, I continue to walk fast as I approach the class and sit with 10th-grade students. A few minutes later, the teacher wrote few arithmetic problems on the board that everyone starts to solve, including me. Five minutes later, I stood up, "Sir, I have solved all of them." Everyone in the class immediately looked at me in utter confusion and disbelief. I felt euphoric and immediately became the talk of the school.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

It's the year 2001, and I'm about to witness yet another experience that would profoundly impact my life. I am 27 years old and started my 2nd entrepreneurial venture just a year earlier in my hometown — a fashion & interior design training center. I'm currently looking for various marketing events to build the student base. Hoping that the Army community would be more interested in learning about Fashion & Interior Designing, I organized a roadshow inside the Army base. Despite having all formal approvals from the authorities, it takes us more than 30 minutes to clear all the formalities and reach the venue inside the campus. The guests from within the army base continue to arrive. It's only when I started to receive calls from my guests outside the base, I discovered that anyone who does not belong to the base is not allowed to enter. To sort out the problem, I reached out to a few Army personnel whom I had talked to earlier and have already taken permission. I expressed my guests' difficulty and inquired why the guests could not enter. In the end, I'm left unheard, and most of my guests had to head home in disappointment. Our ill-treatment experience continues, whether it is about seating spaces, preparation rooms, or food stalls. We still went ahead to conduct the event, hoping we'd find a few business opportunities from this event. Despite being humiliated, I am so naïve and desperate that I am too afraid to walk away. Being so attached to the results, I refused to see the obvious writing on the wall that this is not going well. After a few days of unendurable patience, we did not receive a single inquiry. The only result we got from that event was humiliation and utter disappointment. 

Now, let us decipher these events to understand the message I want to convey. In the 9th grade, I was free as a bird and ready to just be in action despite my fears. Childhood to early adolescence timeframes is when most of our cognitive development happens, along with many physical and emotional transformations. For me, I was developing and recognizing some of my core strengths. Now, you must be wondering what core strength I am talking about here. I vividly remember how I would always be the first to take the first call in what my classmates wanted to do. I was the one to approach the teacher to take permission to go outside and play. I was the one to reach out to my teachers for any queries while they were in the classroom. My cousins used to push me to raise concerns to my elders, to whom everyone else was scared to talk. Looking back at these memories, I get present that I always believed in myself and lived courageously throughout my childhood till early adolescence. 

When you're courageous, you will feel as if you are rooting from a source of unlimited power, irrespective of how unfavorable the surroundings are.

Every child on Earth is inherently born courageous. Still, something happens over time that makes most kids start looking for reassurance. I had a strong thought in my mind that I might fail before 10th-grade students. Possessing courage as one of my core strengths inspired me to take up that challenge without being bothered about what my inner voice was trying to inject into my mind. Until then, I was never concerned about what people would think of me or carry any dreadful thoughts while making a choice. I was courageous and had a strong belief in my abilities that made me feel powerful. 

This lasted until my 1st failed start-up, and then everything changed. I was 25 years old. When I started experiencing a lack of synergy between the founders, I decided to step back from my first start-up. It was a difficult step. All my plans fell apart, and I was pushed into financial scarcity that affected me both emotionally and psychologically. Inherently, fear exists in every human being, and it was in me too. My fear started to overpower my decisions. After my first start-up failed, I began to self-doubt and experienced a lack of self-confidence. I was on my back foot. 

My second entrepreneurial experience continued with the after-effects of my first failed start-up that made me want to look for reassurances rather than believing in myself. I was not operating from courage or self-belief to drive my actions but just wanted to create favorable results. The marketing event we hosted inside the Army base brought me closer to understanding that being too focused on producing results can never produce results. One more learning I got from that experience was never to let anyone depreciate my values and self-belief. The same day, I committed to myself that the core values I carry in life must always come first, and everything else is secondary. Being attached to the outcomes is never going to produce desired results. I took a heavy burden for almost two years until I gathered enough courage to keep walking on the road I chose for myself. This prepared me for bigger challenges and even bigger opportunities in life,

In Time Tec is my 8th attempt in entrepreneurship. All it takes is one successful attempt to make a difference in others' life. InTimeTec was that for me. Once we established In Time Tec, all my failures and doubts became nothing more than learning experiences that finally allowed me to live for a bigger cause. 

When the other four founders and I started InTimeTec in 2009, we didn't have many clients. Over the next few years, we worked really hard to deliver our commitments to the clients and our employees. In return, we successfully built trust with our existing clients that helped us grow steadily in the next few years. Until 2014, most of our work at InTimeTec is done for a client that adds 80% of our company's revenue. Nevertheless, we discover that the client is not treating us equally, and our employees struggle to meet their increasing demands. We are all in a dilemma about the next course of action to ensure that we create clarity for our employees and build a sense of equality among both parties. We are trying to establish a win-win situation for both parties, having multiple conversations in and out of the company, several attempts to bridge the gap between the client and us. Still, nothing changed, and the employees still continue to suffer.

An American author and poet once said, "It takes courage to grow and become who you really are."

One fine day in April 2014, three of the founders of InTimeTec are meeting with the client to have a critical discussion. After listening to them for some time, my friend Jeet (CEO of InTimeTec) suddenly declared, "We will not do R&D." Now, this came as a shock for everyone else in the room. In the evening, we meet again to reinforce that we will never compromise with our values no matter the cost. In the next few days, we formulated a plan to close that project in a phased manner and walked away even though it seemed a lot tougher decision at that moment. 

As I share in my third experience, it is evident that all five of us, as founders, came together to practice courage in all walks of life to be more, give more, and have more, with Jeet in the driving seat. It has now been 12 years since we laid the foundation of InTimeTec that thrives on trust, transparency, integrity, and leadership to this day. Today, InTimeTec is growing consecutively for the past 12 years. We belong to one of the fastest-growing privately held US companies recognized by Inc. 5000 for five consecutive years from 2016-2020. 

Now let us look a little more in-depth about how courage enables power in human beings. Courage and fear are two strong emotional traits of all living creatures on the planet. Looking at the animal kingdom, it is evident how some of the most feared animals survive. We could understand the profound impact of not having courage can leave in human life. According to research, a lion only succeeds 25% of its entire hunting attempts, half of the fish's eggs are eaten, most of the seeds of trees are eaten by birds, and half of the baby bears die before puberty. If we decipher this, we will find no failure in the eyes of nature for these species. Whether it is a lion or fish or a tree, all of these operate from nothing every time they fail. They don't stop, and every time they restart the process, they proceed like it is the first time they're in the act. Even though they don't understand the linguistic approach we do, they don't keep their past with them every time they lay eggs or hunt. It is only natural for the animal/bird species that their survival largely depends on courage and rigorous actions.

In the modern era of human advancement, fundamental human survival traits have changed a lot depending on multiple factors, including upbringing, culture, and other demographics. Although, there is an immense impact of not having courage in our lives. We're born in a generation that doesn't depend on the courage, but the quality of life undoubtedly depends on courage. 

sandeep image

As human beings, we always keep taking action. Even not taking action is also a kind of action. So the question here is - How to find out whether you are taking action with courage or not? What is courage all about? From my own experiences, I have seen that being authentic to oneself is courage, being authentic to people around is courage, keep taking action for what you believe despite all the fear is courage, not hiding is courage, taking things head-on is courage, accepting results is courage, taking corrective action when results do not meet expectation is courage, accepting mistakes is courage and forgiving others is also courage.

Courage doesn't always guarantee that you will produce desired results, but it will give you a place to stand that will allow you to witness your efforts. You will start feeling empowered, having no guilt or regret before you restart when the results are not favorable. When we operate from courage, we will do what needs to be done rather than running our course with an emotional bias. At times, to achieve the desired results, we make unwanted choices that lead us to adopt unhealthy traits like cutting corners or manipulating our relationships. In the end, we will be left with a sense of incompletion with the process we choose for ourselves. On the contrary, courage gives us the power to keep taking actions irrespective of the past results without worrying or hanging upon the effects it will produce. 

We live in an era where we have not witnessed major wars or challenges in our lives, and many of us live a comfortable life. What does courage mean to a comfortably living community, considering that their survival does not depend on courage? The comfort society lives with pulls down the ability to be courageous and take bold actions to achieve something bigger than ourselves and live life powerfully. Courage is never going to be comfortable, but courage is the only aspect of human nature that can enable growth in our life and the people around us. Everything you do in life involves courage when you are determined to turn your wishful thinking into reality and make a difference in the world. We must realize that courage is always about us, does not depend upon others. Our ability to be courageous must not hurt people, not to be reckless in our decision-making. The courage does not demand us to be reckless or hurt people in the process. It is the source that enables us to unblock ourselves while taking actions that we want to take to make the quality of life better for ourselves and the people around us. Harnessing courage as a natural trait makes us unstoppable in life. 

You may be having a question here - How can you always be courageous? Here is my mantra - Accepting the outcome, keep learning, and keep doing what needs to be done enables courage. It may look difficult, yet it is simple once felt and understood. You will indeed start living the life you dream when you start with a strong belief in the process. You don't need not be courageous because it may produce better results. Courage is the way of being that enables you to live a powerful life; It is a lifestyle. Whatever happens in the past, whether favorable or unfavorable, leaving it in the past and operating your present as a fresh beginning enables courage. Just being authentic with yourself and taking action with self-belief allows courage. 

Courage, excitement, and contentment are three words driving me to reach where I am today and how I want to take this journey forward. You take the courage to open a closed door, feel the excitement as you enter through the door, and be content with whatever you find once you are on the other side of the door. That's the beauty of life, and the power of living this kind of life starts from courage.