“Courage is knowing it might hurt, and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s why life is hard.”

Jeremy Goldberg

There I was, on the precipice of life’s high diving board, toes curled—possibly in dramatic fashion—clutching the edge like they were auditioning for a nail commercial. As I looked down at the shimmering blue abyss, my belly felt like it was hosting a hamster convention. Those little critters were excited and running wild, gnawing away as if I’d swallowed a year’s supply of sunflower seeds. The unsettling sensation wasn’t hunger—it was fear.

But let’s be real for a second: this wasn’t my first time facing a metaphorical deep end. In fact, if my life had a theme song, it’d probably be titled, “Questionable Choices and Why They Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.”

However, in this precise moment, with that deep, cool, hopefully-chlorinated-enough pool beckoning below, I realized that the gut-churning fear was more than just about the potential belly flop or the unflattering swimsuit choices I’ve made over the years. It was the very essence of courage—a poignant moment where, despite knowing full well I could end up looking like a failed cannonball attempt, I chose to take the leap.

On the flip side, let’s reimagine this thrilling dive. Only this time, I’ve somehow overlooked the minor detail that the pool resembles the Sahara Desert. Dry, empty, and probably hosting a mirage of an oasis somewhere. Even though every sign yells, “Danger, Will Robinson!”, I’m on the edge, preparing to dive into air. That’s not bravery—that’s a severe lapse in judgment. Maybe even a future appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.

It strikes me that life is a bit like a water park. The ride names may sound thrilling like “The Abyss of Adulthood” or “The Tunnel of Terrible Decisions”, but it’s our job to distinguish the exhilarating from the downright bone-breaking. Bravery and recklessness might share a booth at life’s carnival, but the entry ticket to one is awareness and to the other, perhaps, a tad too much optimism after a few drinks.

So, while courage and blunders might seem like they sprouted from the same family tree, what separates them is a pinch of discernment, a dash of experience, and perhaps a healthy side of failed dives. Life, in its whimsical, often slapstick comedy fashion, is our masterclass in figuring out which pool to plunge into. Or, in my case, figuring out whether my toes will forever be auditioning for more dramatic roles.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.