Bravery is usually associated with grand feats that save lives, tenacious resistance that engenders revolution and transformation, or actions that tackle crises. Courage is rarely seen as essential to everyday acts like going to work, leading a team, or sharing a new idea with the world. Entrepreneur and design thinking professor Ashish Goel believes that living well is ultimately a series of acts of courage. Being a decent human at work, at home and in society is hard—and requires a great deal of bravery every day.
In his book Drawing On Courage: Risks Worth Taking And Stands Worth Making, Goel explains that courage isn’t as rare a quality as it’s made out to be and explains its role in living a fuller, more creative life.
Using comics to illustrate real-world situations, Goel walks us through the “four stages of every courage journey: fear, values, action, and change”. He sets out a framework one could use to build courage. Yes, there are steps to be followed, work to be done, and everything can be acquired and practised long enough to become second nature; you are not just born with it. If you are among the few who routinely speak up but have recently started feeling disillusioned about whether anything really matters, this book reinforces the value and significance of living a life of courage.
More often than not, self-help books put the onus on the individual, insisting that it is up to you to drive change, speak out, stand up and transform. It is, therefore, refreshing that Goel acknowledges that acting with courage also requires an enabling environment. He explains how organisations, companies and communities can create an environment of psychological safety that helps people to act with courage, whether they are at work or in their community. He also underscores the point that being part of a team is not just about having courage but also about giving others the courage to make a decision, take a risk, or just be the best they can.
Goel’s experience in both academia and the corporate world—he was design head at delivery startup Zomato and a teaching fellow at Stanford’s d.school, leading classes on design thinking—makes this a practical and insightful guide. The best part: It is free of “inspiring stories” from history or of entrepreneurs who overcame odds, stories that have been recounted so often that they have acquired the quality of fiction.
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Goel gets to the point quickly, honouring the reader’s time and intelligence, and avoids the endless repetition of most self-help books. The illustrations by Ruby Elliot are a bit hit-or-miss—at times, excellent; at other times, just cheerful distraction.
This is a book that could help you grow a spine or send you scurrying for cover when you learn that there’s no end to the acts of everyday courage it takes to live. Courage, after all, is a choice.