Lessons from a Life: Courage


Lesson #1: Be a Visionary

I love the process of creating a goal, of doing something I have never done before, and following through. The process is challenging, and often creates fear, and is always rewarding. As a coach teaching others to take risks, the effort is always a great story for my clients, even if I tank.

When I was young I had the chance to practice courageous visioning in sports including gymnastics and skiing. When I was 14, I had a dream of going to the Cornell Hotel School and was able to fulfill that dream when I was 18. As a professional in the hotel business, I was able to create new offerings, never attempted before such as a Thanksgiving Dinner for 900 people at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver that included waiters carving turkeys’ tableside for each family.

In my early thirties I biked 1200 miles down the west coast of the US that one of my best friends and I envisioned when we were 20. In my late thirties, I took a 12,000 mile car/camping trip to find a new home town and ended up in Taos, New Mexico, for three years.  This car trip came from a vision I saw several years earlier in a meditation while on a spiritual retreat.

Currently, I own and operate a business I developed through a Native American Vision Quest where I was left alone to pray and meditate for four days. As an entrepreneur, I am always trying new ways to grow or diversify my business, some make it and many more that fail.

My tolerance for being a visionary and going after my dreams is well developed, and in truth, continues to be my focus because I have to practice what I preach for clients. This process takes tenacity, courage, and resilience.  Most importantly, it takes a deep commitment to creating visions or pictures of the future and not giving up the process of dreaming, no matter your age or circumstance.

Earlier this year, in Chicago I led a team at a phenomena called Startup Weekend–a great place to practice the principles of courage and being a visionary. The event, which is held in cities around the world, launches a business from an idea to market validation in one weekend.  So far, they have had over 1000 events in 400 locations.

My weekend began as one of 60 people who had one minute to pitch their idea. I was hoping that the 100 participants would vote for me and move it into the development round. For me, it was the most difficult part of the weekend. Despite having some speaking experience and a passion for my idea, I was nervous, and getting the idea down to one minute took me most of the day. I was surprised and relieved when I squeaked into the top 16.

My next task was to recruit others to work on creating a tech demo and a process for developing a business plan for the final pitch. I did attract new members and the rest of the weekend was a roller-coaster ride of pivots and emotional highs and lows. By Sunday evening, the team created a tech platform and a great rationale for a new tech business called Dream First that helps teens have a career dream and a practical path for making it real.

If you are trying to create a new career path,  I recommend putting yourself into situations that will help you develop your courage and vision muscles.  This may be as simple as asking your boss for direction on how to get a promotion or something more complex like registering for a Startup Weekend in a city near you.

You may also want to consider signing up for our Virtual Career Masters Small Group Program that begins on September 30, 2014. 

Laurel Donnellan

CEO and Founder, Bright Livelihoods

Laurel’s mission is to help people find their home in the world of work. She has 30 years of experience as a leader, educator and coach and has degrees from Cornell and Columbia.  To request a private half-hour coaching session with Laurel, e-mail us at info@brightlivelihoods.com.

© 2014, brightlivelihoods. All rights reserved.

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