In his final broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News a few years ago Dan Rather paid homage to people around the world who daily struggle with danger, sickness, death, disease, poverty and other challenges. Rather concluded his broadcast with the same memorable ending he used 24 years earlier when he took over from Walter Cronkite. He often used to end his broadcasts this way–he’d look at the camera and say one word: “Courage.”

That sign-off intrigued me. Courage is regarded as a major human virtue. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerve all rolled into one. I’m not a soldier, a policeman, a doctor or a relief worker. I’m a businessman. What does courage have to do with running a business?

Plenty. I admit that most folks’ daily lives are not filled with such dramatic challenges. We all face situations that require us to reach down deep within ourselves to do what is right and brave and occasionally difficult. Courage can involve making decisions that are unpopular or time-consuming or even expensive.

It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets you apart from the crowd…especially when the crowd checks out. 

In one of my all-time favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion is looking for, of course, courage. When he finally meets the Wizard, he has some questions (and answers):

What makes a King out of a slave? Courage

What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? Courage.

What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.

What makes the Sphinx the Seventh Wonder? Courage.

What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage.

What makes the Hottentot so hot? Courage.

What puts the ape in apre-ricot? Courage.

Whatta they got that I ain’t got? Courage.

And you know what comes next: The Wizard awards the Cowardly Lion the Medal of Courage so he would always be brave. That’s something we could all use.

Mackay’s Moral: Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 
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About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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