Students in a philosophy class were anxiously awaiting the start of their final exam. The professor had warned them that it would be one of the most challenging tests they would ever take.

The teacher wrote one question on the board and said, “This is your exam. You have one hour to complete it.”

One student scribbled something quickly and turned in his exam, casually walking out of the room. The other students continued to write furiously as they looked on in disbelief.

The professor chuckled when he looked at the exam and wrote on it “Great job! 100 percent.”

The question: “What is courage?”

The student’s answer: “This is.”

Every day, examples of courage are all around us. Courageous folks may not be winning awards, getting their names in the news or resting on their laurels. They are running businesses and nonprofits. They face challenges and discouragements that threaten their financial and emotional futures. Yet they persevere.

Maxwell Maltz, the author of “Psycho-Cybernetics,” offered this explanation: “We must have courage to bet on our ideas, to take the calculated risk and to act. Everyday living requires courage if life is to be effective and bring happiness.”

Courage is one of the themes of the recently released movie “Joy,” the story of Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers. She holds more than 100 patents for her inventions. She used her life savings and borrowed from family and friends to create the Miracle Mop. It took two years of personally selling the mop in supermarkets and working out of her bedroom before she achieved big-league success. Her kids filled the orders.

“Whenever you start something new, in business or life, doubt comes easy but courage takes work,” Joy wrote on a Home Shopping Network blog.

“You must be brave and you must be strong to have the courage to keep going when you do experience the struggles of being an entrepreneur,” she added. “I think a large part of my success came from my drive to bring something bigger into the world and to show my children that they could also accomplish their dreams, no matter the obstacles.”

Dr. Charles Garfield, author of “Peak Performance,” tells the story of a wealthy man who bought a ranch in Arizona and invited some of his closest associates to see it. After a tour of the estate, he took everyone to the house, at the back of which was a swimming pool filled with alligators.

The rich owner said: “I value courage more than anything else. Courage is what made me a billionaire. In fact, I think that courage is such a powerful virtue that if anybody is courageous enough to jump into that pool, swim through those alligators and make it to the other side, I’ll give them anything they want — my house, my land, my money.”

Everyone laughed and started walking into the house when a loud splash was heard. The crowd saw a man swimming for his life across the pool, as the alligators pursued him. After a heart-stopping interval, the man made it to the other side and exited the pool without injury. The rich host said, “You are indeed a man of courage. What do you want? You can have anything.”

The swimmer, out of breath, said, “I just want to know one thing — who pushed me into that pool?”

Mackay’s Moral: It’s advantageous to be courageous.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail