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Why my Brother’s Death at 23 Taught me that Courage is the Most High-Performance Habit of All

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“Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous” – Robert A Heinlein

I have a confession.

While many of us have felt it, I sometimes struggle with people who doggedly refuse to move from victim mindset + are unwilling to do anything differently. Obviously, mental illness can keep us there, which is truly hard.

I recognise I may be a bit intolerant having seen my 22 year old brother choose courage at the worst of times – untimely death.

Nobody Googles ‘Glioblastoma’ + comes away feeling hopeful. Ironic the ‘my brother died of a brain tumour’ line is a conversation stopper because his defiance in the face of adversity made it hard for us to view him as anything but inspiring, radically altering the course of my life for the better.

Courage is a powerful thing – especially when the stats tell you you’re f*cked + hope, for all intents + purposes, is lost.

But that’s the magical thing about courage.

It’s truly metaphysical, uniting improbable points of likeness like strength in suffering, bravery in hopelessness + humour in adversity, in the most breathtaking ways.

It finds hope in the hopeless, inspiring life’s Greats to do their highest work on Earth – the most inspiring of whom usually have real reason to be victims – the Nelson Mandela’s of Apartheid, The Viktor Frankel’s of the Holocaust + the Martin Luther King’s.

A few days’ before my brother’s death, he wrote my sister + I a letter oozing a courage that blew my mind: ‘Obviously I’m a bit narked because I thought we could win, so now we have to reassess winning + how we define that’.

w o w

That’s the thing about courage – it takes your breath away – because it’s grit + defiance that flies in the face of fear –

+ you never really know it’s there until the sh*t hits the fan.

In truth, Matthew had always been a bit special, with an understated charm + charisma that lit up rooms – but none of us were prepared for how he made suffering his crowning glory.

Even in his darkest hour, he found the courage to reframe the hopelessness of tragedy: ‘Cancer need not be the epilogue, in many ways it can be the introduction to a richer life of wisdom’.

Towards the end of his letter to his little sisters, my twin + I, he wrote: ‘So we need to have a lot of fun (underlined) over the next few months or so’ (before signing off with an Austin Powers quote).

I’m privileged to see courage daily in my career + life coaching clients – who are, by definition, deeply courageous, seeking the magic hidden in stress. They inspire me daily.

So when life feels impossible, remember, courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s defiance over fear. As Maslow says: ‘One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again + again; fear must be overcome again + again’.

So when you wobble, remember, there is purpose in pain. As Freud said:

‘Pain has nothing to teach those who don’t find the courage + strength to listen to it’.

mel blog

Clarity. Confidence. Possibility. Love. Creativity. Focus. Calm.

I’m Melanie Pritchard, recovering lawyer turned life coach, NLP practitioner and truth-teller with a passion for helping people be, do and have anything they want in life.

I feel blessed to help courage-fuelled go-getters design their lives in a way that brings them true happiness and I’m so excited to be with you on your path to success.

Let’s get to know each other a bit better.


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