The Courage to Take a Seat

Last night I went to a seminar hosted by my university’s Alumni Association. It was called Four Under Forty, a play off of Crain’s Chicago Business’ annual Forty Under Forty. Four members of the list were on the panel at the seminar, including this past year’s David Marco and Mike Domek, as well as last year’s Thad Wong and Noreen Abbasi. The panel members were asked a series of questions, and it was an interesting event.

Among a few themese I noticed was the idea of courage. Thad Wong simply exuded confidence and made the claim that he believes he could do anything anyone else has done. Nothing should be impossible for him if someone else can do it. But even then, believing in himeself was key to his success. David Marco made similar comments.

I was thinking about courage when I went home afterwards. I was reading Stephen Covey’s book First Things First and specifically his treatment on the need for courage. And with this topic on my mind, I saw something happen on the train that seemed appropriate.

There was a woman sitting with a bag sitting next to her. The train was getting quite crowded, and I saw some people walking towards the seat, only to turn away once they saw her bag there. Maybe three or four people acted similarly, turning away as if turned away from a fountain. Then one person got on the train, walked up to the seat, and simply asked the woman if she could move her bag. The woman complied. This new person won her seat on the train because she wasn’t afraid of what might happen if she asked. She simply did it.

And if that isn’t an oversimplifed metaphor for what courage can do for your business, I don’t know what is. You can’t win unless you play. Whether it’s just getting a seat on the crowded train or starting your own business, if you don’t attempt to do it, you force yourself to stand and watch as someone else does.