By making the decision to be courageous, you have to be willing to stake your claim and stick to your guns. Having courage can put you in a very isolated place, and doesn’t always make you popular. I see Courage as a verb: perpetual, not stagnant. It’s an ongoing decision. It’s a philosophy of digging into it and pushing forward.
I really admire the quality of resolve, people seeing something come to fruition. Nothing great is built fast, and I admire the people around me who have the resolve to engineer their ideas. I feel like LA is very much a city which trades on confidence. It’s not like other cities or other industries who trade on pedigrees or accolades. You have people who don’t necessarily have any of level of expertise, but are super passionate about what they do, or the causes they believe in, or the things they don’t agree with. In LA, people can become contagious and become leaders.
Through Apolis, we manage a portfolio of social enterprises along with our local manufacturers for our brand. Our biggest project is in Bangladesh, where we started with six women making farmer’s market bags for us. Now, there’s over 100 who work for this one project about 5 years later. When we were growing out this part of the business, we were forced to make some tough decisions which required courage.
As an example a few years back, someone hacked into the cop-op director’s email in Bangladesh and contacted us with updated wiring instructions for one of our larger deliveries for the season. This led us to wire $80K to an offshore account in China. We realized the person who emailed us was not the co-op director we had hosted in Los Angeles, but quickly decided we had to do whatever it took to wire $80K to the actual co-op--recognizing the possibility we would never recover the original wire. Although it was a difficult decision, we knew we had to do whatever it took to find the money to make it right -- we refused to put hardship on the women artisans. Six weeks later, we were able to recover the original wire.
As an entrepreneur, you’re always taking risks, and it never really gets easier. One of our most ambitious projects was when we started the Alchemy Works concept shop (next door to Apolis in downtown LA) . For us, we felt limited with what we could engage with just our Apolis shop, and we wanted to expand the community we could pull from. It’s how we came to the idea of a clubhouse/retail/event space/ gallery--anything goes. We are passionate about providing a space to accelerate community.
To start Alchemy Works, we basically took what was in our living room and put it into this space and committed to it. While so many things fell into place which made it work, it was still difficult to make it sustainable. Even in moments of success, a business is very challenging to sustain. It took courage for us to make the commitment to the business, but it has opened up so many doors. It’s a complement to what we do at Apolis, to carry other brands and support other things we love.
If you’re doing something with purpose, it takes courage. Building a business which does good is like preparing for a marathon. It’s more than a business, it’s a life decision. You must have the stamina to see it through.
I’d like to provide a gentle encouragement: Courage is not the absence of fear, but the presence of love. Many of us equate courage with fearlessness. The entire concept of courage doesn't exist without fear. The stronger the fear is, the more courageous the act.
Courage isn't something that should be compared. Someone's fear of snails may sound silly to you. Yet, if they overcome that fear in order to achieve a goal, then that, by definition, is courage. Sometimes, simply telling the truth takes courage. George Orwell points out that, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
Courage is Sally Yates standing up to the most powerful office in the world to protect those who are being hurt, regardless of the repercussion. Courage is the Standing Rock youth standing up to a multibillion dollar energy corporation, several militarized police forces, rubber bullets, tear gas, and hoses, USACE, and the White House to protect the right to clean water for not only their future generations, but for millions of people they won’t ever know. Courage is immigrating to America and working undesirable jobs for a better future for your children, despite discrimination.
In the Bible, 1 John 4 talks about God’s command to everyone who loves Him to love our brother’s and sister’s. This is in the context of us ALL being children of God. It also says, in that same chapter, that "Perfect Love drives out fear." I believe this.
Now, I don't believe it means that fear goes away completely. I think it means that this love referenced is a love of prioritized actions. It's an active love that fights for those who fear their oppressors. It’s not always a pleasant feeling. In the moment of courage, we prioritize the love we have for another human being over protecting ourselves and our selfish interests. We can use the obstacle of fear, the sensation of fight or flight, and transfer that adrenaline from self-preservation into active affection, lending a hand to whoever is in need. That love sees obstacles as advantages. That love is a love of service and activism. That love is courage.
When I think of courage, I think of letting go of anger. Ever since I can remember, I was filled with anger and hate towards the people who hurt me. If someone hurt me, I felt I had to hurt them too, just to get even. In an effort to deal with the intense feelings of dissatisfaction towards myself and others, I turned to drugs and made destructive choices.
About two years ago I finally realized, if I continued to hold hate in my heart I was going to fail everyone - most importantly, I was going to fail my kids and was on a path to destroying my life.
I decided to let go of fear and anger, and sought to replace it with courage. I had to teach myself not to let my past have a hold on me. It’s not something that is as easy as simply forgetting, but rather is an everyday statement I make to myself that I have to let go of my past mindset and let go of the people who told me I was worthless. With the courage I’ve learned from The Giving Keys community, I know I’m beating my old ways of thinking and my addiction.
I am still learning how to live courageously, and while I don’t always think I can do it, I think that’s part of the journey. When I get scared that this life is too good to be true, I have a tendency to want to sabotage myself and my dreams before I get hurt. But that doesn’t stop me from getting back up and pursuing my dreams again, stronger and harder the next time around.
When I think about the next steps after The Giving Keys, I feel a deep desire to build something fulfilling, more than just the next job. That’s when I decided to start my own cleaning business. I asked myself, “What can I do to pursue something better for my life? What can I build for me that I can be proud of?” It may be a small business today, but everyday I’m striving towards growing into a better tomorrow.
I describe courage as letting go of the people and the moments in the past that are holding you back. It’s knowing that I am not defined by my past, but rather am empowered by my present state of mind. To me, that’s courage.