twenty seconds of insane courage

In the book We Bought a Zoo, Benjamin Mee chronicles his family’s purchase of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park, a ramshackle zoo in the English countryside. Mee and his family had their own struggles as well but he still went ahead with the decision to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. 

In the movie version to the story, there’s a great scene that involves a brief dialogue between Mee (played by Matt Damon) and his estranged teenage son. In order to encourage his son to reach out to a young girl he befriended, Mee gives him his advice. He explains to him that our lives are defined by the moments when we muster the courage within us to put ourselves out there. Those occasions when we make a bold move or take a risk that, if we had overanalyzed or considered the pros and cons, we’d never have been capable of taking. Mee tells him, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

In order to embody the virtue of courage, we don’t need to be brave all the time. We can only be brave when the situation demands. Only during certain occasions, that’s it. The brilliance of these twenty seconds of insane courage is that it’s a quick decision to take action, even before our own fears and weaknesses start kicking in. 

We all find it difficult to take risks in our life, especially that involve being vulnerable and putting our emotions down the line. But what if, instead of getting intimidated by the entire experience, we just look at what’s right in front of us and work on mastering it?

What if we put our fear aside and muster twenty seconds of insane courage — to make a phone call that we’ve been dreading, to send an email to pitch our idea, to approach that person we find attractive and talk to them, or to make a big life change?

It’s best to not get intimidated by these experiences and life as a whole, rather we can just take that single step. We can give ourselves a few seconds of embarrassing bravery.

It’s these tiny steps that get the ball rolling and bring us significant accomplishments and big, bold life changes over time. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Today, take that baby step and give yourself twenty seconds of insane courage. And something great will come out of it. You can trust me on that.