20 Seconds of Insane Courage

In 2011, I was thoroughly enjoying a new and growing relationship with my now-husband, Tom. My attention was so focused on this new love in my life that I completely missed some everyday things … like most of the movies, TV series, and news events of 2011.  Looking back, that experience taught me some important lessons about the value of priorities, conscious choices, and putting myself first in my life. But it still surprises me when people reference a popular movie or event from that year and I seriously have no recollection of it… like the movie, We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

It somehow recently made our radar, and last week we watched it, albeit 10 years later. We Bought a Zoo is a tender family film loosely based on the 2008 memoir of Benjamin Mee, a widower, who purchases a dilapidated zoo and moves with his two children to live there and run it.  As they adapt to their weird new surroundings and attempt to navigate their common grief, they must also prepare this zoo for its public reopening. While the movie was definitely worth a weekday evening, it wasn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but there was a very moving moment toward the end of the film when Matt Damon’s character made a statement that had me running for my pen and my Monday Morning Stretch notepad.

As Benjamin sits on the ground in one of the animal enclosures with his teenage son who has finally just opened up about a vulnerable moment with a girl, he says, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage… literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

20 seconds of insane courage.  20 seconds of embarrassing bravery.  I LOVE that!

20 seconds of insane courage to make the phone call, start the conversation, write the email, tender your resignation, apply for the job, ask for what you want.  20 seconds of embarrassing bravery to say, “No” or to say, “Yes.”

Most of the time, whatever we’re avoiding or ignoring is patiently waiting for us to muster the courage to simply start—to jump, to move, to risk. It’s scary, and hard, and vulnerable but starting is for sure the hardest part. Ask any skydiver, scuba diver, heart surgeon, entrepreneur, speaker, teenager, or any truly successful, happy person you know, and they will tell you that the first step is the hardest… after that, every step gets incrementally easier.

And not only does it get a little easier, but, also, we frequently discover that our fears were unfounded. When we muster the courage to take the first step, very often it’s easier and turns out better than we’d ever imagined in the first place.  We see this all the time in Courageous Conversations. I’d be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every time we coached someone to have an important conversation and they came back and said, “That went better than I ever expected and (/or) was easier than I thought it would be. I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to do it.”

What are you waiting for? What are you afraid to pull the trigger on? What do you have a nagging desire for but are hesitant to try or do? What is it you need to say? Sometimes, you don’t need to see too far into the future of what if’s, or I can’t’s, or she won’t’s, or I don’t know’s. Sometimes all you need to see is 20 seconds of insane courage to simply start. 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery to take that first scary step… and then… you’re off and running!


“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage… literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

~ We Bought a Zoo





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