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Prize Founder and Author T. A. Barron on the Essential Quality of Courage
Author and Barron Prize founder T. A. Barron is passionate about the power of heroic ideals. His fictional characters call on qualities like courage, compassion, perseverance, and hope as they face and triumph over challenges. Our real-life Barron Prize young heroes demonstrate the same ideals as they work to help their communities and protect the planet.
In the following reprinted essay, T. A. writes about Courage – a quality so essential to both his fictional heroes and the heroic young people we honor. I hope you find his words as inspiring as I do!
Merlin’s Seven Magical Words: Courage
T. A. Barron, Author and Founder of the Barron Prize
Merlin has been a part of my life for more than 20 years.
Though he may be but a mythical being to some, and a great character in an epic story for many more, after 12 books devoted to his life and the telling of his story, he is truly much more than that for me. He has grown into a friend, an intimate, and a significant and meaningful part of my life that I have come to relate to on a near-daily basis.
And he has taught me so much!
Through Merlin I have learned much of what I understand about bravery and the responsibility of power; wisdom and the importance of being open to learning; kindness and the enduring promise of hope. Merlin’s story has helped guide me through many challenging experiences in my life, and I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to use his wisdom to guide me through life’s challenges.
Especially when it comes to finding Courage.
To me, Courage is what empowers us to seek out the great meaning of life. It allows us to dream about who we can be and what we want for the world, and it gives us the strength to actually persevere and bring those dreams to life.
Each day I strive to live courageously — to be bold in life and to live it fully. And, while I, like all of us, sometimes struggle to be courageous in the face of adversity, I know just where to look for inspiration.
One of the most common questions I am asked is, “How did you manage to leave your steady, reliable career all those years ago in pursuit of being a writer?” And the best answer I have is Courage (and a dash of Hope!).
Without Courage I never would have fulfilled my dream of being a writer. I never would have shared Merlin with all of you. I never would have had the opportunity to tell my own story, or to encourage you to authentically live your own.
Real Courage, however, is not something we naturally have from birth; true Courage — the sort that shapes lives — can only fully bloom when cultivated and cared for.
How to Live a More Courageous Life: 5 Things You Can Do
Focus on meaning.
Meaning can’t be bought at any store. And it can’t be handed down like a coat that someone tells you will fit perfectly before you’ve even tried it on. Meaning must be sought and earned and made one’s own.
To truly live a courageous life, you have to find what is meaningful to you and let it fuel your soul and inspire you to act courageously.
Practice being courageous.
It seems strange, but being courageous doesn’t mean not being frightened. Most people who face a challenge which requires bravery will tell you that they were scared out of their minds before they took that first step. Courage requires you to leave your comfort zone and tread out into a space that is unfamiliar and unsafe. Doing this requires practice to perfect.
Brene Brown said it best, “Courage is…a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”
If you want to be more courageous, you have to practice being courageous every chance you get! Be bold with your life. Explore whatever calls to you. Love fully and freely without being guided by fear or the expectations of others. Because at the end of your days, what you’ll most regret is not what you tried and failed, but what you never tried at all.
Be inspired by your world.
Nature has always been an inspiration for me — it is where I am my most creative, where my best ideas seem to be born — and it has taught me not only how small we all are, but also how significant we are, as well.
Surrounded by the wilderness I may feel dwarfed by the grand sweep of the stars, the oceans, and the mountains. Yet, as overwhelming as it may seem, I know that I am still an important part of it all. I can see the power humans have to help or hurt this world we live in and I’m inspired to be courageous for the sake of our Earth.
Take time to look around you, find the things that are most meaningful to you – the things that fill your mind with awe and your heart with love – and let them be your courage.
Let passion be your guide.
When I wrote my first novel, I received 32 rejections. Thirty-two! That’s a lot of NOs … and everything around me was telling me to give up on this dream, so I did.
I followed my back-up plan and joined a business in New York City. But, even as the business became more successful, even as I found myself overwhelmed with tasks, I still created time to write – to do the thing that filled my soul in a way nothing else seemed to be able to.
Eventually my enduring passion allowed me to find the Courage to try again.
Now, dozens of published books later, I think I made the right choice!
It’s scary to leave a sure thing, to venture out into the unknown to pursue something without a safety net, but for me, nothing is as frightening as the idea of growing old, coming to the end of my life, and knowing that I had a big dream – but I never really tried to make that dream come true.
Let passion be your guide. Listen to it, let it lead you to where your heart and mind feel as excited as they do at ease. You’ll suddenly realize what you’re truly capable of accomplishing both for yourself and for the world. And, once you realize the power you have, the Courage will come easily.
Think of your life as a story.
Always remember that you are writing your own unique story – with every day you live and every choice you make. This is your story, set in your world – with your time and your soul – and YOU are the author. You will write every chapter – all the way to the end.
Make it the most awesome story you can – fill it with adventure, heart, and humor, make it meaningful and grand. Then, go out and tell that story with the courage that passion, love, and gratitude have filled you with.
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a program of the nonprofit organization Young Heroes Project, celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.