Courage isn’t fearless

We just had the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Most people old enough to remember the time can recall vividly.

Back then I was a corporate manager meeting with a customer in Buchanan, Va. Joe, a big burly guy, broke into the meeting and told us a plane just hit one of the twin towers in New York. When he burst back in and said the second tower was hit we all knew something was up. Then we heard about the Pentagon attack and Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. I feared for the safety of my kids in Maryland, Virginia and my oldest in the Navy, somewhere on a ship. My wife was at the nursing home where she worked. Driving home the sky was eerily quiet since all planes had been grounded.

The stories of courage on 9/11 are remarkable, from the first responders in New York City to the passengers on Flight 93 who took the plane down before it could reach its target in Washington, D.C. All those heroes overcame fear to do what needed to be done. Courage isn’t about being fearless. It is about doing what is right and needs to be done in spite of fear. In the military we learned fear before battle is normal and good. It improves eyesight and keeps people from being reckless and endangering others.

Great leaders are courageous, not fearless and stupid. When the crowd is going the wrong way, it takes courage to overcome peer pressure and say “No.” One of the biggest challenges people must overcome is the fear of the pain of failure. This fear keeps us from being the best we can be. We can learn from failure. At a high school conference, I was leading a few years ago, a student said, “You know you fail to score on 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Fear of rejection or ridicule from others can also hold us back from achieving our dreams.

In August 2001 the seniors on our soccer team set the goal to go back to the State Tournament and not just play for, but win the State championship. That took courage. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I announced their goal at a team dinner with the parents present. The boys cheered. The parents’ faces were fearful and terrified. Some shook their heads. They were afraid their sons would fail. We went back to the State Soccer Tournament. We didn’t win the State Championship. It took eight more years for that to happen. The boys were disappointed but had developed the courage to aim high and now lead successful lives as doctors, lawyers, engineers and business people.

One of the best ways to overcome fear is to do the thing you fear. My daughter helped me to overcome fear and self-doubt to run a half marathon. After running over 40 half marathons together we have had hours to run and talk with no distractions or phone interruptions. My daughter was an assistant high school soccer coach. The school had never had a female girls soccer head coach. She had fears and doubts about her ability to do the job. My encouragement helped her to go after the job when the opportunity came. She is now doing a great job as head coach.

Knowledgeable, experienced, moral people can be intimidated into silence by personal attacks in the media or online. I have witnessed this first hand personally and with others. Emotion cannot be allowed to win out over sound science, basic engineering principles and practical experience. Experts need to have courage to share the truth and their concerns to prevent bad things from happening.

This week I virtually attended an energy policy conference in Virginia. There were no climate deniers among the speakers. They were very concerned with the direction of proposed government solutions. The opening keynote speaker was environmentalist Michael Shellenberger who wrote the book Apocalypse Never. He is concerned about current policy that relies heavily on weather dependent renewables as a solution. He experienced the blackouts in California caused by reliance on weather-based wind and solar. Michael and other speakers had the courage to change their opinion about industrial wind and solar factories.

Michael said the North American Right Whale is a critically endangered species. There are currently only 100 breeding females. Virginia’s offshore wind project will impact the Right Whale’s breeding grounds and is still moving forward. The large tall windmill blades will also impact a major flyway killing millions of birds to produce a small amount of unreliable energy. Michael stated renewables require 300 times more acreage than natural gas or nuclear power. Other speakers talked about Virginia’s plan to cover over 400,000 acres of farmland and forests killing trees with solar panels. They said these projects will cost consumers over $800 a year in increased electricity costs and damage the environment.

Presenters said the U.S. is already on the right track. Natural gas has helped the U.S. to reduce emissions 22 percent since 2005 and is 4 percent ahead of its Paris targets. They see a clean future with natural gas and high tech modern nuclear power having no emissions, rather than using solar panels and windmills made in China with power from dirty coal. Ultimately, they see hydrogen as our major fuel for electricity and vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles don’t require batteries that become hazardous waste at disposal.

We will be faced with situations requiring courage. It may be making a difficult decision that will be unpopular. It might be doing what we know is right when others want do something immoral or unethical. It might be fear of failure, fear of trying something new or fear of speaking the truths we know. Courage isn’t a lack of fear. Courage is doing what we know is right and needs to done or what we must do to be successful in spite of our fears. Be courageous.


Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com, is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. www.shalecrescentusa.com He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering with over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.


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