by Niall Doherty

Welcome to the second day of Random Acts of Courage, Part Deux, the day it all falls apart (or comes together, depending on your perspective). I’ll fill you in on that in just a sec, but first, for the uninitiated…

RAoC is a week-long project which sees me stepping repeatedly out of my comfort zone. The goal is to show you the benefits of such forays, and to promote the relaunch of A Course In Courage next week.

Gut check

You may remember my first crack at RAoC back in January, when I spent five whole days skipping happily around Cork City, talking to strangers, singing in the street, and flirting with zee hot ladies. This week was supposed to be more of the same, and I was busy last Thursday collecting all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas for challenges when a friend spoke up and stopped me in my tracks. I believe I had just mentioned that I was considering going homeless for 24 hours, when she kindly questioned my motivation. To paraphrase…

Why exactly are you doing this project again? Is it to work on your courage, or is it just to get attention?

Feck. She had a point. The first time around, I was doing challenges that actually helped me grow. There was purpose there. But this time, the challenges themselves had become pretty meaningless. I was just jumping from one to another, looking for my next courage hit.

The madness of it all really hit home on Friday evening, when, via a friend, I met a nice Moroccan chap who had recently moved to Ireland and was interested in learning a bit about web design. He asked if I could spare a couple of hours this week to teach him the basics, and my first thought was Impossible! I’ll be too busy prancing around town doing all sorts of crazy shit, trying to draw attention to myself.

Thankfully, I was able to pull back from the cusp of that slippery slope. I figured that helping my new Moroccan friend better himself would be an excellent way to spend a couple of hours this week, crazy shit be damned.

And so I began to reevaluate this whole Random Acts of Courage project. I came up with a qualifier question against which I could measure each potential challenge: Would I attempt this even if nobody was to know about it? If the answer was Yes, I’d know I was on to something meaningful and I would keep the challenge on my to-try list. If it was No, I’d scratch it and think up of a better use for my time.

And now there aren’t many challenges left on my list, and I know that Random Acts of Courage, Part Deux won’t be as epic as I had hoped it would be. I won’t see that big spike in traffic like I did back in January. The relaunch of A Course In Courage won’t get as much publicity as I would like. But I’m okay with all that. I feel I’m doing the right thing here.

So forgive me if my adventures this week are not as entertaining as they were that last week in January. I’m hoping you’ll consider it courageous that I’ve stepped back and figured out what I really want to do, what’s really meaningful for me, instead of just following the mindless path.

So, that’s the ska. I’ll wrap up this post by telling you about the two “challenges” I did try today…

1. Apologize to someone for a past transgression

I used to be a bully.

Back in my primary school days, I remember picking on this one kid who everyone else picked on. He was the playground punch bag. A bit of a brat, he seemed to actually get a kick out of annoying people. Strange thing is, I can’t ever recall him showing fear when faced with a beating. He used to laugh off the digs and insults, almost inviting more. I tried numerous times to wipe that frustrating smile off his face, but it never budged.

His name, well, let’s call him Donnie McGonagle for the sake of this exercise. I was only in primary school with him. After I went off to secondary school, I didn’t see him again. Until one night in a club in my early twenties. I failed to recognize him at first. He introduced himself, and I remember feeling a sense of dread rush through me. Oh shit, this is the lad I used to beat up back in primary school. Now he’s a pretty big dude with tattoos.

I thought he was going to exact his revenge right then and there, but he didn’t. He didn’t seem to have any beef with me. Even so, I excused myself quickly and went to hide in a corner, just in case.

Why apologize after all these years? Feels like the right thing to do, that’s all. It may not mean anything to Donnie now; I doubt he even remembers me much, seeing as how I wasn’t the only kid to pick on him back in school. But like I said, it just feels like the right thing to do.

So I looked him up on Facebook. And I sent him a message, my apology.

Sorry, Donnie. Sorry I was such an insecure little prick back in school and felt the need to release my frustration in your direction. Kudos to you though for being one tough kid. I can’t ever remember you flinching. I hope you’re well.

2. Help a neighbour

Again, this wasn’t so much about me stepping out of my comfort zone, as it was about me doing what I wanted to do, and what I felt was right.

There’s a guy down the street working hard to open up an organic food shop, 100% vegan dealio. I dropped into him last week to say hello. He seemed a bit flustered. I know he was aiming to have everything ready to go by the end of March, but he’s still toiling away.

So I offered to lend him a hand in the shop today, no strings attached. I spent about four hours scraping and cleaning the front windows and chatting to him about his travels to India. He treated me to lunch after. Nice guy. Glad I could help him out.

Meaningful scary stuff

So here’s what I’ve relearned these past few days: Courage isn’t just about doing scary stuff. It’s about doing meaningful scary stuff. Oh great, you quit your job. But why? Are you being courageous, or are you being irresponsible?

Here’s me, paying forward a favor from a friend, encouraging you to think a little deeper.

Build your courage

Digging my Random Acts of Courage series? Want to build your own courage muscles and overcome some pesky fears? I created an online course to help you do exactly that…