5 Seconds of Courage – sometimes that’s all you
need to change your life forever!

I don’t regard myself as particularly brave, but what I am struck by, is the impact that just 5 lousy seconds of courage can have on one’s life for the better.

Let me illustrate the point with 3 short examples from my own life that were “game changers” for me.

Campus Carnival

While at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a friend phoned me up one day, to announce that he was not going back to University as he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant!

He had responsibility for running a fund raiser called Campus Carnival.  Would I take over his role? My first reaction was to say “NO” and to give some feeble excuse! This sounded like “responsibility” and that was the last thing I wanted to interfere with my “easy street” existence – doing the minimum of work to pass exams and drinking far too much on the weekends.

Something, however, made me say “yes, OK” and those 5 seconds did change my life.

Campus Carnival – turned out to one big lesson in event marketing. On the Saturday of the event we had woman’s rugby, a parachute drop, “slippery-pole” wrestling, a treasure hunt, and the big event – mens inter-varsity rugby, followed by relaxation after the game with a beer garden and barbeque. All the food and booze had to be donated, town council permission had to be granted for the parachute drop, the local schools had to be canvassed, posters displayed, and money collected at the gate. A crowd of about 5000 showed plus students and the event was a success, breaking all previous records for attendance and funds raised.

Bottom line  – this was not an earth shattering marketing success! Sufficient however that those 5 seconds in fact changed my life. The experience opened my eyes to the fact that I appeared to have some skills in marketing and it seemed a lot of fun .So while I graduated as a social worker and practiced in that profession for 2 years – I started taking a marketing course at night and on emigrating to Cape Town from Zimbabwe I was able to make the transition to a career in marketing and ultimately management

Two other examples continue to make the point that 5 seconds of courage is all it takes sometimes

The next Sugar Ray Leonard!

Also while at University I was going to the gym to keep fit and used to work-out on the speed ball that the gym had set-up for boxing. One day the boxing coach seeing me work out – said why didn’t come and I try out in the ring.  Another 5 second moment! The result – I finished-up as boxing captain for the University and won the inter-varsity light middle weight division. It’s hard to describe how good that felt!  No more bad dreams of “bully boys” kicking sand in my eyes on the beach!

A new life and language in Brazil  

 And then there was the opportunity to go miles away to run a music company in a far off country called Brazil , in the great  city  of Rio De Janeiro, a city of 12 million, the city of samba, music and ceraveza! Sounds good I’m sure – but how about having to give up a very good job in Cape Town – learn to speak a new language in a country where only 10% of the population could speak English  and try and flog music to which at that time,  I had absolutely no affinity .  Yikes! – this ultimately took more than 5 seconds to make the decision – but it took just 5 seconds to be open to the idea of such a move.


First of all let me say – the yellow streak down my back is just the same as most people – I’m no hero!

There’s also a lot to be said for the adage –“look before you leap”.  I’ve just as many stories where I wish I had thought a bit more before acting !!

That having been said – these 3 examples are very significant “game changers” for me. In the case of the first 2 examples – perhaps the biggest thing I had to lose was my pride and too often we don’t act because of that.

One final rather profound thought from Nelson Mandela who said – “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but who conquers that fear”.