Courage And A Story Of Two Men

by Paula Pant on · 6 comments

I’m going to tell you a story of two men: Jared and Sam. These sto­ries are true, although the names of the men, and cer­tain iden­ti­fy­ing details, have been changed.

Jared con­stantly wor­ried that he’d fail. He never saw any char­ac­ter­is­tic within him­self that pointed toward suc­cess. He was always an aver­age stu­dent, never the bright­est. He was an aver­age ath­lete, never the strongest or fastest. He was mediocre at music and art. He had decent inter­per­sonal skills, but no com­pelling charisma.

Jared’s life seemed to be one set­back after another. He was rejected from his top-choice uni­ver­sity, and had to set­tle for sec­ond best. He got decent grades, and shortly after he grad­u­ated, he met and mar­ried a nice brunette woman. Life seemed to be look­ing up.

He found a job at a home-repair com­pany, and over time, he got pro­moted. He had one child, then another, then a third. His fear of fail­ure lay dor­mant. That fear stayed deep within him, but life’s pleas­ant cir­cum­stances lulled the fear into tak­ing a nap.

One day Jared got laid off from that home-repair com­pany. He felt crushed. He had a tough time look­ing his three chil­dren in the eyes. Had he failed them?

He tried to find another job, but was con­stantly plagued by the fear of fail­ure. He stam­mered dur­ing inter­views. His face looked hag­gard from poor sleep. No one wanted to hire him.

He returned to grad­u­ate school, but felt embar­rassed by his posi­tion as an older stu­dent. He felt intim­i­dated by class­mates who were younger and smarter. He turned assign­ments in late. His essays were sloppy. His pro­fes­sors rewarded him with C’s, which only fur­ther dis­cour­aged him. Even­tu­ally, he dropped out.

Now he had stu­dent loans from a degree he never fin­ished, in addi­tion to no job. His mar­riage was falling apart. His spirit was crushed. His fear of fail­ure had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


One of Jared’s sons, Sam, watched his father’s exam­ple and vowed to per­sist in the face of fear.

As Sam aged, he faced the same self-doubts that his dad did. He feared fail­ure. He doubted his skill and ade­quacy. But he per­sisted in spite of his fears.

Sam was an aver­age stu­dent in col­lege, just like his dad. But Sam believed he was bound for great­ness, no mat­ter what his report card said.

When he was laid off from his first job, he decided that was a sign from the uni­verse that he was bound for some­thing even greater. Sam found a bet­ter job, and quickly rose the ranks. By age 25, he was earn­ing more than his father ever had.

Sam even­tu­ally decided to enroll in grad­u­ate school, but he didn’t notice that he was an “older” stu­dent. It never crossed his mind that he was in the com­pany of peo­ple who were younger and sharper. He saw him­self among intel­lec­tual peers.

Sam dropped out of grad­u­ate school, just like his dad did, but he did it for a very dif­fer­ent rea­son. Sam dropped out because he spot­ted an oppor­tu­nity to launch his own com­pany. A new mar­ket had just opened up, and his idea couldn’t wait.

Sam was afraid, of course. He knew he was tak­ing a big risk. He knew he’d wind up with stu­dent loans and no degree to show for it, just like his dad did. He was afraid that his com­pany would flop.

But Sam didn’t let him­self focus on those fears. While his dad fret­ted about fail­ure, Sam trained him­self to focus on oppor­tu­ni­ties to suc­ceed. Sam per­sisted not in the absence of fear, but in spite of his fear.

Sam’s new com­pany had ups and downs, just as all new com­pa­nies do. The highs felt nice, but the lows were very, very low. In those dark­est days, Sam ignored the lit­tle voice whis­per­ing in his ear about fail­ure. He kept his eye trained on the prize.

In short: Sam had courage. He felt afraid, just as his dad did, but he trained his mind to search for anti­dotes. Courage is not the absence of fear, Sam real­ized. Courage is per­sis­tence in spite of fear.

by Paula Pant

Thanks to wise money man­ag­ing, Paula Pant has trav­eled to 27 coun­tries, pur­chased a 99-year-old Vic­to­rian home near cen­tral Atlanta’s most beau­ti­ful park, and has never — ever — had a penny in debt. Her blog, Afford Any­thing, is based on one rad­i­cal idea: money should never hin­der your dreams.
Paula Pant
View all posts by Paula Pant

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