What Four Brave Men And Women Told Me This Week- Could You Do It?

Three men. One woman. Separately. Talking to me over coffee tables. Each did something inspiring. Surprising. Their actions oozed courage. And epitomize a habit critical to coping in tough times, at work and in life. Are you up for it?

Four conversations. Four very different relationships. In each, something rare happened. You see, each told me of something causing them sadness, pain, anxiety, stress, fear. I was privileged. They exposed vulnerability. And, I know, felt better and stronger for having taken that step, and for talking about it. And here’s the point- it’s about something I am getting better at doing, and encourage anyone who will listen to do so as well. Do you do this?

It’s constructive to reflect on what makes us anxious and sad- to dwell in it for a while, understand it, respect it, adapt with it.

One conversation was with a longtime business associate and friend. He got teary, and told me he was struggling. He was saddened, hurt and confused by changes affecting his job and life. I listened. Counseled as best I could and suggested others more qualified to help. He needed counsel from me less than an ear to hear his story. And having got it out into the open, felt refreshed, recharged, lighter. He later told me that he had moved forward from that conversation with a sense of energy and optimism.

Here’s the point- and my view only from my experience- sometimes it is constructive to sit a while in the melancholy we might feel. It can be counter-productive keeping ourselves so incredibly busy that we avoid recognizing, respecting, and having the courage to connect in with the anxiety or sadness that might be within us. Also then to think about how small steps of progress can be made with that. It’s also really powerful to TALK TO OTHERS about what is hurting you- to have the courage to share your feelings.

Business IS tough. Our roles ARE getting harder. Pressure DOES keep rising. Demands ARE accelerating. We have a responsibility to acknowledge this, and help ourselves and our colleagues cope. One reminded me: “Business is getting tougher – and this is why the our commitment to providing training on personal resilience and wellbeing is an outstanding initiative.” I don’t share that to pump the company’s tyres. I share it because it’s true, and our commitment to arming our people with tools and techniques to manage stress and build resilience is simple good practice, and is the right thing to do. It’s part of our duty of care.

Accept pressure ‘gets us down.’ We can’t be ‘up’ all the time.

Recognize and respect your anxiety and sadness when it bubbles within you. Don’t bottle it up. Have the courage to talk about it with someone you trust.

I find this approach really helps to reboot my energy and optimism- at work and in life-and is an important ingredient to resilience, and pushing through to the next challenge and next step.


I was quite taken by this comment by former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, but do recognize it has dangers within it. “There is a place for sadness and melancholy in life. We don’t always want to be sparkling and happy all the time. You need the inner life. The inner sadness which rounds you out.” I get that. I empathize. I want that as part of me. But it needs a very careful watch-out.  I have found talking to others about that inner sadness and anxiety really helps, and keeps me on track.  How about you? (If you don’t know that right person to speak with, or have a serious issue to discuss and want help, don’t forget

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13 Responses to What Four Brave Men And Women Told Me This Week- Could You Do It?

  1. Padraig OSullivan February 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Great post Chris.

    Indeed as we get older (and wiser) all we have is vulnerability. Every thing else is false. I heard Paul Keating saying the comment in his interview with Kerry OBrien and was amazed at its simplicity and honesty.

    • Chris Savage February 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks Paddy- agree!

  2. Christiane Schull February 19, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Chris, thank you for your post. Yes, yes and yes. Being human means having feelings. Feelings are our personal GPS – our guidance system. They tell us if something is or isn’t right for us; if something in our life – in our heart – needs to be addressed. The gift you gave your friend was immense. There is nothing more healing sometimes than to know that we are not alone.

    • Chris Savage February 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks Christiane- I had not thought about it that way. Agreed!

  3. Jim February 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    I think this fits under the bravery header very nicely – putting yourself out there personally. And being brave every day with your job and yourself is bloody hard.
    Cracking post, keep them up.

    • Chris Savage February 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Thanks Jim- agree. I actually agonised over this post and kept changing and editing…I felt it went into territory that is sensitive and dangerous if treated glibly… and know I am just a commentator from the peanut gallery- but still really felt a powerful; urge to tell the story and get the point across…because those people had inspired me and reminded me how much talking and recognising and facing the issues really does help. So I have been nervous on the response and appreciate the feedback- so far so good! Chris

  4. Camille February 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Can I point out, one of the STW Group’s digital agencies originally created a website that helps start a conversation about this very issue. Great simple tools to ask someone “R U OK?” Visit

  5. KerryAnn Bartle February 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    Thanks Chris another great insight shared, and your analogy “just a commentator from the peanut gallery” is very humble as I think your thoughtfulness on such a delicate subject has been portrayed beautifully. Fear can be one of the most inhibiting feelings and can put a lid screwed tightly shut on one’s dreams and aspirations if we allow it to. I agree it is so important when life throws a curve ball to take a moment to reflect and absorb the reality of what has happened only then can you truly understand and harness the strength to move forward stronger and with more knowledge and insight. A problem shared is a problem halved, by being transparent and putting yourself out there helps us recognise we are not alone in our own thoughts and feelings, we are all human and have human experiences and sharing this can be very powerful. It is hard to face our fears and the fear of rejection can be one of the hardest but if we don’t challenge ourselves by being present and putting it all on the table then we will stand still and stop growing. Nothing is gained from wrapping yourself in cotton wool and from what I have learnt so far in life is there is always good with the bad, the bad will happen that’s life but the good can be utterly amazing and is something to keep striving for no matter what!

    • Chris Savage February 21, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

      Thanks KerryAnn- thanks for the perspective! Chris.

  6. XIkan February 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I found this talk by Shaun Achor which talks about stress can be a good and bad thing.

    For example, some one can turn their whole life perspective around after a traumatic incident in life can experience the same stress as some one who suffers post traumatic distress disorder which stops them from living. Stress is important in our lives, it’s just how we process it.

    I do think sharing your experiences and and talking to others will help to overcome challenges at work or in life.

    Thanks for the insightful post

    • Chris Savage February 24, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      Thanks! Chris

  7. Grace February 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    I got inspired to read your blog after a training you held last week. I am surprised but delighted to read my first article about a topic beyond the exciting but also tough business most of us are facing everyday. I come from a country background that tend to give a big focus on the negative aspects in life, emphasising what is not working rather than what is already going well. I’ve never been aware of this since I came to live in Australia: people here have the great gift to celebrate and embrace everyday moments. Although this is probably not true in all instances, for me it just gives me the right buzz to the daily routine and at least brings a smile to my face during stressful times. On the other side, it is sometimes hard to see behind this facade and really have the chance & time to talk to people about what keeps them up and worried. I agree, it is important to allow negative feelings but it’s a fine line to get out of the negative space rather than being dragged into to it. I am happy enough to have friends but also very special colleagues to be there for me to talk . From reading this article as well as the lecture in good listening in the training, I set myself the objectve trying to be more sensitive with people I am in contact with everyday, trying to sense if somethings going wrong with them and be more open to really listen to them. Thanks for the thought starter by making this a topic

    • Chris Savage February 24, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks so much for your email Grace- I really appreciate you taking the time and for your thoughts. Chris

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