How To Be Braver At Work

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Being brave doesn’t mean being reckless. I grew up a sports fan and during my childhood the Chicago Bulls were the best basketball team, possibly of all time. That wasn’t especially great for me because my favorite team, the Milwaukee Bucks, were in the same division and also weren’t very good.

Michael Jordan, who played for the Bulls during this era, was known for many things. Great shooter. Excellent defender. Perhaps a bit harsh on his teammates. But his method worked.

What I remember about Michael was that he was brave. He always wanted to take the shots that mattered most. Many are just along for the ride in team activities whether it’s basketball or a hobby or work. The feeling of failure is very strong. Michael seemed immune to that fear.

Thats’s what I call being brave. It’s not doing something reckless. It’s doing something that needs to be done knowing that you may fail and be seen as the reason for the failure.

How can you be more brave in your work?

Here are a few thoughts…

1. Adversity as Opportunity

Some see adversity as something to avoid. Perhaps it’s human nature. Our ancestors, after all, struggled just to survive each day. A little adversity from the wrong source could mean death. Not just for them, but for their families and friends.

Today, there isn’t much that will lead to death. It’s relative, but we don’t usually need to worry about some wild beast lurking in the shadows behind the bushes. We have other things going on in our lives and we’re generally pretty safe.

But we still have those instincts to avoid things that scare us. And that can mean that we avoid challenging situations. Especially at work.

Successful people, though, often see certain challenges as opportunity. The last shot in a basketball game for Michael Jordan. It was his job to win basketball games. And nothing was more challenging the pressure of a last shot to win or lose. But Jordan saw it as an opportunity. And part of the reward is the recognition for getting the job done.

2. Failure is Fine

Some of the most successful people seem to have the gift of seeing low risk, high reward situations. It could be entrepreneurs, athletes or any number of professions. They seem to be able to look past the instinct of fear and see certain situations as really have very little to lose.

When Michael Jordan took the last shot in a game, his team was likely already losing. The worst thing that would happen is that he would miss and his team would lose, which was already the current state of affairs anyway.

The reward was making the shot and building on a legacy as a clutch player and the potential reason for the team’s victory.

Try to find these situations in your work. Trying something with little risk is well worth the failure. And the reality is that others around you probably don’t even care when you fail in low risk situations. They probably don’t even realizing you tried it.

3. Recognizing what needs to be done

The key for being brave is understand when it’s appropriate. There is reckless and there is brave. The two often bleed into one another and that can cause confusion. We may see others being heralded for their bravery, but really they are gambling. The real successful folks are often the ones that avoid the worst possible scenarios.

Tiger Woods, for example, is often recognized for his miraculous shots. But he was actually one of the smartest players ever. He had what became known as the “Tiger 5”. It was a simple set of rules for winning golf tournaments. All of the rules were about avoiding high scores and not about making aggressive shots and taking on risk.

Double bogey is a bad score in golf. I was listening to Tiger’s former caddie, Steve Williams, on a podcast and he said that in some years Tiger would make fewer than 4 double bogeys in the 4 major tournaments combined.

There is a stat on the PGA Tour called Bogey Avoidance. You’ll see that often the best players are the ones high on this list. Including Tiger who starting in 2000 finished:

  • 1st
  • 1st
  • 1st
  • 15th
  • 14th
  • 3rd
  • 2nd
  • 1st

And as you might guess, the years he didn’t finish high were his worst on Tour.

But Tiger wasn’t afraid to take on difficult shots either. When the time called for it, he would take on a shot. What did he have to lose?


Being brave means looking for opportunity where you and others normally see adversity. People tend to shy away from these situations. But the key item to recognize is that you don’t want to be reckless. You want to see a situation with great reward and little risk. They don’t occur all the time, but if you’re looking for them regularly you can really start to change your life.

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