How to be Audacious. A Guide for Prudent Consultants Like You.

60-second story: Four friends wander a woodsy path to find the ocean. Their goal: wade through warm, crystal waters and gape at neon sienna sunsets. Once they reach the Coast, of course. But not now. Not yet. First there’s a trail to follow.

The forest byway buzzes with the everyday hide-and-hunt of insects and animals. Along the way, Ranger Dan hails the foursome as they pass below his perch amidst the treetops.

All is glorious. Until it isn’t. Until the trail reaches an unseemly, untimely, unwelcome end at an unpassable crevasse. Now what?

The other side—the route to their golden sunshiny dream—is a mere stone’s throw away. And if any of the friends were stones, perhaps they could be thrown across. A quick review confirms: none are stones.

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Four friends, four choices:

The first friend walks to the dizzying edge and trembles at the inhuman leap required. Quakes at the precipitous fall. The danger is clear and present. By all rights, a warning sign should be posted to save others from choosing this untenable path.

With a wave and an admonition (“Be safe out there!”) the first friend turns back for home. It’s best to leave now, before dark descends or the thunderclouds deliver on their threat of rain. This friend is… Fearful.

The second friend peers across the gap, and knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that others have made this improbable leap. After all, their legendary photos of frothy breakers and teeming tide pools inspired the group’s journey.

He wraps himself in the certain knowledge that others have vaulted the gap; in confidence that he is strong of leg and fleet of foot; in faith that the universe delivers miracles to those who commit and believe.

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Taking a running start, he leaps. Hurls himself toward the other side. Contrary to promises in self-help books, suspending disbelief does not suspend gravity. The friend crashes ungracefully into the far wall then tumbles down the long, steep, rocky face. This friend is… Foolhardy.

The third friend is shaken and no longer intrepid. A quick analysis reveals erratic wind and inconsistent footing at the cliff’s edge. It’s now clear that those few who successfully hurdled the danger and sent back enticing photos were lucky. Their leaps were propelled by fortuitous foot placements and unreliable gusts of wind at their backs.

However, the vast majority of valiant jumpers were not so fortunate. Enlightened and wiser, this friend ventures off to find a way around the obstacle. The path along the edge winds its way to a delightful, inland city; a fine, comfortable place where the third friend settles down. Dreams of the coast soon fade into memory. This friend, having never reached the dream, is… Sensible.

The final friend retreats a ways down the path then hollers up to Ranger Dan, “May I borrow your axe?” “Sure,” replies Dan, ever the helpful employee of a quasi-government agency.

By sunset, two sturdy trees span the chasm, and our friend is watching the tropical sun dip below a wet horizon. A few miles back his hand-carved sign reads, “Beautiful beaches straight ahead. Feel free to use the bridge.” This friend, basking on the dreamed-of waterfront and opening the way for others is… Audacious.

Eight Steps to an Audacious You

  1. The entire point of audacity is to end up somewhere better. But where is better? Only you know where your tropical shores are. Without a picture of coral reefs in mind, you’re likely to sit snug as a bug at home.

The first step in Audacity is dedication to a dream—a vision of your future that is far superior to your present.

  1. Very quickly, however, you realize that wishing for the tropics is quite a different matter from deciding to leave the comforts of home. To be audacious, you will have to commit to your course, step across the threshold and leave the comfy couch behind.

The second step in Audacity is letting go of where you are now.

  1. Many people confuse audacity with courage. They’re different. It takes courage to face the dangers that come upon you unbidden. The dark of night, the armed enemy, the store shelves empty of pralines. Audacity, however, is required when you make choices knowing they will create new dangers you must overcome.

You walk out the door knowing it’s rainy outside. Plus, according to the internet, the road is rocky and you may encounter gorilla-sized mosquitoes. And gorilla-sized gorillas.

The third step in Audacity is creating scary situations, then facing your fears.

  1. A world of difference exists between audacious and foolhardy. Anyone can leap from a plane, claiming the universe provides parachutes to those who open themselves to floating. Preparation and forethought are critical, oft overlooked, components of achieving bold ambitions.

The fourth step in Audacity is creating a plan that connects you to your dream.

  1. Also overlooked is risk mitigation. The audacious consider risks then set up soft landing places and safety chute mechanisms that deploy in case of emergency. This separates them from the lucky.

The fifth step in Audacity is preparing for the inevitable dip or bump along the way.

These first five steps can be boiled down to a handy, two-by-two matrix that neatly describes our four, fabled friends:

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  1. Unbridled planning and preparation looks an awful lot like procrastination. There’s a time to conform to the Department of Transportation’s bridge regulations, but it’s not when you’re being audacious. Most of our decisions don’t pose a risk to life or limb. Cut down the trees, span the gap, and go!

The sixth step in Audacity is moving—quickly—once you reach 80% confidence.

  1. Occasionally an audacious individual is a loner. More often, though, the pioneer stands on the shoulders of giants or holds the giants’ hands. Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea to guide them to (coincidentally) the Pacific Ocean. Our hero turned to Ranger Dan for an axe.

The seventh step in Audacity is seeking help.

  1. Audacity will pick you up by the scruff of your neck and deliver you to the land of your dreams. Sometimes. Sometimes you end up in a trailer park with a sore neck. The key, however, is how you view botched attempts.

The eighth step in Audacity is equating mistakes with learning, not failure or a measure of self-worth.

The eight steps above are your guidebook to audacity. Your roadmap from your current, comfortable home to a sparkling, white beach where beautiful, sunbathing clients pay you handsomely to spread lotion on their backs. Or something like that. Metaphors go astray sometimes.

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What audacious journey will you embark upon?  (Your first audacious act should be to post a comment below. I want to hear from YOU!)


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Text and images are © 2015 David A. Fields, all rights reserved. 

By | 2017-08-07T12:42:09+00:00 October 21st, 2015|28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. David Shaw October 21, 2015 at 7:04 am - Reply

    A very good read. A good moral. An excellent model. An inspiring but cautionary tale. Thank you. I’m at the stage of cutting down trees!

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Chop away, David! I look forward to hearing stories of the balmy beaches on the other side of your personal chasm. Let me know how it goes.

  2. Diane Bogino October 21, 2015 at 7:49 am - Reply

    It’s not everyone who can take the cautious side of life and marry it to be “Be Bold, Be Daring, Devil May Care” attitude of others. There must be a mix and there must be the element of good timing. In other words, one must know when to ignore the local bridge laws and when to bow to tradition and policy. Excellent article with prudent, yet, let me give you a swift kick advice.

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 8:44 am - Reply

      You are so right, Diane. Life doesn’t post “No Parking on the Bridge” signs to direct us when the choice is unclear. What should be the course for those not naturally prone to derring-do? Err on the side of risk. In our business, even the Foolhardy live to leap another day whereas the Fearful have no chance of reaching the dream.

  3. Ted Demopoulos October 21, 2015 at 8:50 am - Reply

    So many people get to 80% confidence, 90% confidence, yet turn back. Even if proceeding is sensible.

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 10:43 am - Reply

      They do indeed. Some people get to 100% confidence and STILL turn back. Fear can be a titanium padlock, sequestering people in their safe havens even when they want to venture out. The biggest mistake, I think, is trying to break through debilitating fear by yourself. Even though overcoming fear is ultimately a personal, internal achievement, when others help you shape and turn the key, your chances of removing the lock are much, much higher.

  4. Todd Ordal October 21, 2015 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Brilliant! Marvelous analogy, David!

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 10:44 am - Reply

      Thanks, Todd! Keep me up to date on your audacious accomplishments, please.

  5. Lacey October 21, 2015 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Audachardy Hybrid here. LOL & SMH.

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

      That’s funny, Lacey. Most of us are a mixture, like you. We wander around the quadrant chart, drifting into Sensibility now and again, hopping into Foolhardiness on an impulse, and on happy occasions even venturing into Audacity. How can you reduce the amount of Foolhardy in your mix and increase the level of Audacity?

  6. Nitin October 21, 2015 at 11:38 am - Reply

    David,

    Very nicely written article. Comments from others are also quite helpful. I still think despite of becoming audacious at times, I have come across people who did not succeed at the first time and sometimes people with minimal efforts (audacity) made a fortune. What do we call these two scenarios? May be one was lucky…being right time right place….good karma!!!

    What if a person is having a internal fear from interacting with A type personalities…who are aggressive and very audacious…at work. The fear makes this person weak in performance at work, afraid of navigating through the situation and run away from the opportunity at hand without planning a safety net for his/her future…I would like to hear your opinion on “how this person can overcome this internal fear?”

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Nitin, there’s bittersweet truth in the adage, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” Indeed, the Foolhardy sometimes hit a bouncy patch of moss and are springboarded across the chasm. I like your suggestion… let’s call it good karma!

      The audacious usually require multiple attempts to succeed. Because we trumpet successes (our own and others) and mute setbacks, it’s easy to forget that virtually every extraordinary, bold achievement was preceded by a host of failures. Before Apollo 11 landed a man on the moon we endured the tragedy of Apollo 1.

      Re your question about overcoming fear, that’s a good topic. I’ll write a blog post about it in the future. In the meantime, you may enjoy related posts such as “Overcoming Discouragement: A Prescription for Consultants

  7. Tristram Coffin October 21, 2015 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Thanks, David, for the inspiring post! Wasn’t it Sachel Paige who said, “Never look back ’cause the enemy could be gaining!” Your article is a courage booster and I encourage the doubtful to read it again! Thank you! Tris Coffin, CMC

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      That sounds like Paige, Tris. He also said, “Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” Audacity is rising above the common. Thank you for sharing your reaction to the post!

  8. Diana Rogero October 21, 2015 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    I like this very much and would have liked to see the horizontal line in the graph labeled as something like “dedication to critical thinking” rather than “dedication to planning”.

    In fact, the paragraph following the graph seems contradict the planning label with a warning about over-planning.

    A story: My ex-husband took 3 months to plan a home-built dog house. The poor dog suffered in the chilly, rainy autumn weather, while my ex planned and re-planned. By time my ex finished planning, his enthusiasm for the project had wained, winter had set in, and he had to throw together a house that was only a shadow of his original idea. In the end, the dog had a house that was only marginally better than a cheap store-bought one – if that.

    • David A. Fields October 21, 2015 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Great story. Poor pooch! “Critical thinking” may be a better label than “Planning.” Let me think critically about it! Seriously, I like that and may change the graphic.

      • Anatoli Naoumov November 25, 2016 at 9:49 am - Reply

        Audacious goal is not equal to success: no goal can be reached until an Action is taken. Dreaming is not Action. Planning is not Action. I think this 2D model misses the Action axis. In a 3D model Audacious goal with massive Action equates success.
        (This will resolve Diane’s concern, btw)

        • David A. Fields November 25, 2016 at 11:06 am - Reply

          Anatoli, see step 6. You’re right that the 2D model misses action… along with many other things! (e.g., Learning, Mindset, etc.). The 2D model isn’t meant to capture everything, of course, it’s meant to show Audacity and to combine with the eight-step process. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Jane Somerville October 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    I love this article and have just shared it with my partners! Good message.

    • David A. Fields October 22, 2015 at 7:54 am - Reply

      I’m glad the article resonated with you, Jane! Good for you that you have partners… I bet they’re part of your “Audacity Support Group”

  10. Jeff Evanson October 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Hi David.

    A great story with a wonderful ending. But your openness to comments is what i like the most. I generally don’t plagiarise good stories out of respect for the author but this one is worth re-telling. Thanks for the insights

    • David A. Fields October 22, 2015 at 7:59 am - Reply

      Thanks to comments like yours, we get to engage in dialogue. It’s SO much more interesting than a monologue and helps everyone (including me) learn more. By all means, tell and retell the story. By the way, if you point folks my way it’s not plagiarism… or at least, it’s the type I support!

  11. Tim Kist October 22, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Hi David,
    I love the story. However, is it being audacious or is it looking at the problem a bit differently and searching for a different solution. Perhaps it is a mix of both. And at the end of the day, what does the specific term used really matter. Most importantly, the moral about thinking and doing (taking action) differently than the rest is what can help get you over or around a problem.
    And thanks also for agreeing to share the story.
    Tim Kist, CMC

    • David A. Fields October 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, of course. Audacity is committing to a bold dream and finding a way to make it happen in the real world. (But a 20-word post would have been less fun.)

  12. Lisa Hamaker October 23, 2015 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Wonderful analogy and story David. Thanks! I am sure know the term “analysis paralysis”, it can take many forms. Knowing when to hold ’em, knowing when to play ’em is definitely one of the biggest challenges of being a solo consultant. Thus, my visit here, and reward.

    One practice I use to get past over-planning is to do one-big-thing every day. Sometimes it takes 3 minutes – like reaching out to someone. Sometimes it’s 1/2 day. Get’s me thinking outside my comfort zone. Think I learned it from Todd Ordal.

    • David A. Fields October 27, 2015 at 10:02 am - Reply

      Doing at least one “big thing” every day is a good idea, and a sure-fire way to keep yourself on the track to audacious results. That’s a great suggestion, Lisa. (And Todd.) Thank you for contributing. Now everyone who visits gets an even greater reward for stopping by!

  13. Mark T Moore October 28, 2015 at 5:43 am - Reply

    Excellent story Mr. Fields! Well done! With your permission I’d like to share it!!

    Mark T Moore

    • David A. Fields October 28, 2015 at 6:57 am - Reply

      You’re absolutely welcome to share it, Mark. Proper attribution is appreciated, of course. And thank you for the feedback–that’s much appreciated as well.

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