Character Corner: Audacity

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Yesterday I had a conversation about audacity and whether or not it’s a positive character trait. While it’s true that many know the second definition of audacity, which is, “Rude or disrespectful behavior,” the first and more common definition is, “A willingness to take bold risks.”


Your first vision may be the audacity to do something that conquers a fear, like skydiving or cliff jumping. Sometimes, though, it can be the momentary bravery you need to make that call you’ve been dreading. Audacity is Sisu. It’s chutzpah. It’s the stuff of courage and determination.

In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.

Steven R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

These are concepts that don’t translate easily because they represent a set of ideals. Often we find them difficult to explain but we know them when we see them. There is a line where audacious behavior can become a negative trait – just like the definition. Chutzpah in it’s original meaning also has negative connotations. Our Americanized version has turned it into the audacity we admire, even if it’s wrapped in brash, unapologetic behavior.

A few friends have taught me a lot about audacity. Just today, Tracy Seville (who can tech you plenty about living an audacious life!), shared an exceptional video of Pat Mitchell, Editorial Director at TEDWomen, giving her acceptance speech for receiving an honorary Doctorate from the University of Miami. It’s about having the audacity to live dangerously – as a problem solver and a change-maker. For me, it is the reminder to look past the judgement and opinion of others in order to make a difference.

Recently I’ve also been paying attention to Christopher Lochhead. It’s hard not to because he’s audacious. Christopher is a Best-Selling author, Advisor/Investor to over 50 Silicon Valley Startups and I met him when he was a CMO at a public company.  He celebrates audacity on his podcast with guests that live the Lochhead, “Follow your different,” ethos. It has quickly become one of the not-to-miss podcasts for business leadership. Tune in and listen up if you want to learn from audacious leaders.

I encourage you to embrace your day and your week with audacity. Learn from those around you that follow their different. Live boldly with vision and a plan for progress.

How do you do audacious?

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