Courage in Action: Big Lessons, BIG Growth

I told her she’d be a different person at supper that night.

Of course, she looked at me like I was crazy.

But then, I knew something she didn’t.

I knew what happens to people when they do something Really Big, when they face what she was determined to face that day.

On our recent Not-So-Secret Weekend Adventure for Courageous Women, participants were offered something adventure-based counselors call ‘challenge by choice’. That is, they were given an opportunity to CHOOSE to do something HUGE, something waaaaay outside their comfort zone.

They would be given a chance to do something that would bring immediate results in whatever personal goal they may have set for themselves, like greater confidence and improved self-esteem, increased personal strength, overcoming old fears or even just checking something off a life “bucket list”.

 Just like teenagers, they, too, could experience a BIG growth spurt.

So while the others enjoyed the view and a lovely & peaceful afternoon, one woman took me up on that offer. The offer? I had a free ticket to give away for the chance to experience tandem hang gliding with Clark Harlow of Thrill-A-Minute Sports.

Clark is tandem instructor and FAA licensed private pilot who’s part of the TreeToppers Club in Dunlap, TN.

When you’re done here, you should check out their website, where you can read the pretty interesting history behind their one-of-a-kind radial launch ramp.

His being a pilot was important. Because although we talk about hang gliding like it was no more than strapping in and jumping off some high place, there is, in fact, considerably more to it.

The risks are real. So are the rewards.

And although at this point I’d never been hang gliding, I HAD done enough rappelling, rock climbing and challenge courses to have some idea of the basic safety measures one should have for high element adventure.

So I spent time with Clark well in advance of our trip, asking lots of questions, paying close attention to what he said and how he said it, what his attitude was as he approached his student pilots, and the personal flight he would lead with them.

I wanted to make sure he wasn’t a flake (he wasn’t), or a guy out to show off what he knew (he wasn’t). I wanted someone who would treat his student’s fears with respect (he was), someone who would take his time to teach (he did), and someone who took safety seriously (he did that too.) 

By the time we got there, I’d asked  enough, seen enough, and learned enough to feel 100% confident that we were in a (relatively) safe place, doing a (relatively) risky and (extremely) exciting thing as safely as was possible. I had no doubts that he was the right guy to lead us through this experience.


Your brain has a built in mechanism whose basic function is to Keep You Alive. This primitive, instinctual part of your physiology has spent millions of years developing into a finely tuned ability to recognize and warn you of impending danger with one goal and one goal only: survival.

Your brain, with no direction or guidance from you of any kind, will warn you NOT to jump off a cliff. Or even walk near one, for that matter.

Arguing with it will do no good. Logic will mean nothing. Super straps, steel carabiners and licensed instructors will barely register at this level.

Everything in you will tell you not to do this.

So regardless of her personal intent, her sheer determination, her fierce personality and take-no-prisoners will – the reality is that a very real part of her would be afraid that she would die. Some deep, unconscious part of her brain would be screaming at her NOT to do this.

But my Courageous Sister did it anyway. She was not brash. She listened to Clark’s instructions. She asked questions when she needed to. I think to some extent she just trusted me not to offer her this opportunity unless it was a safe thing to do.

So she strapped in, held on to Clark, followed his directions, walked with him down that big, sloping, beautiful ramp, took five quick steps…

 …and she flew.

I was overcome with joy, and pride.

But throughout my career, I’ve seen this time and time again.

I’ve watched tough-guy teenagers with tears on their cheeks as they faced their first time rappelling down a cliff. I’ve watched moms fight exhaustion while they carry a 40 pound back pack for three miles in the mud – up hill – before cresting the top, with pride, and appreciating a view they had to fight to get to see.

I’ve watched women and men in my office as they shared their stories, stories that are incredibly hard to tell, but were harder to live.

And every time, EVERY single time, they come out on the other side clearer, relieved, proud…. Better.

She was a Different Person at supper. Proud. Relieved. Grateful. Honored. And now she knew what she could do. Now she knew she really was a Courageous Woman.

You can do that too.

What is it that scares you to death? Is it speaking up? Is it launching a business? Is it going somewhere you’ve never been?

Action Erases Fear.

So whatever it is, that’s what you must do.

And if you want some help figuring that out, call me. Or tell me what you’re looking for in the comments below.

Because we can make it happen. :)


Photo Credit: Wendy Pitts Reeves, Carolyn Potter


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