To Be Brave or Not to be Brave? Is it Even a Question?

That’s what Elizabeth Fischer Laurie, keynote speaker for Tuesday’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit, asked. As Attorney Advisor of the Department of Health and Human Services, Fischer Laurie addressed typical images that arise when we think of bravery. We often think of cops chasing after the bad guys or firefighters risking their lives to save others.

But in government, so many acts of bravery occur everyday without being noticed. From serving in the military, standing up against pollution, to enabling children with fewer educational opportunities, government employees in all sectors are helping others by performing brave acts. You may not necessarily fit the standard of “bravery,” but in fact, you’re really braver than you think.

Fischer Laurie shared her personal inspiration- her late grandmother, who was one of the bravest people she had ever known. It was because of her grandmother’s bravery and sense of adventure that Fischer Laurie felt inspired to finish law school and get out of her comfort zone to be a Presidential Management Fellow.

At the summit, she told the audience of 700 govie attendees, “Every single one of you in this audience is brave. But if I asked you to raise your hand if you identify as brave, you probably wouldn’t.” When bravery is discussed in limited contexts, most people don’t feel they fit the criteria.

Fischer Laurie, however, encourages govies to shift their perspectives and recognize bravery in acts both big and small. Serving the public in a meaningful way is already brave enough in itself. She shared the following four tips for cultivating bravery:

  • Do something everyday that makes you uncomfortable– No, you don’t have to skydive. Fischer Laurie shared a personal example of how uncomfortable she can be on the phone sometimes. It sounds like something small, but for her, it definitely takes her out of her comfort zone. Maybe you have similar tasks that make you uncomfortable? Find those tasks or activities and practice until they become natural for you.
  • Seek Inspiration Regularly- Inspiration can be as simple as a weekly spin class, an improve workshop, or even gardening. Find an activity that gives you inspiration outside of your government work so that you can be reminded of persistence and being able to accomplish anything to which you set your mind.
  • Recognize that bravery can be really exciting and thrive on that feeling- Fischer Laurie shared a personal example of how she shared a difficult story in front of almost 100 people. She was afraid her story would not inspire others, and, thus, would have no point to it. Not only did she gain recognition for her speech, but she also inspired and touched others through her story. She emphasizes that it’s about recognizing small acts of bravery that can really change your life. Turn the nerves into excitement. “It’s one of the best feelings,” Fischer-Laurie said.
  • Find meaningful examples of bravery and recognize them- “I see friends and colleagues doing extraordinary things everyday, and it makes me want to be braver,” Fischer Laurie said. Look for those friends and colleagues and identify the little and large acts that inspire you. Tell that someone how brave you think she is, and then try to emulate her.

Photo Credit: Flickr/TRF_Mr_Hyde


From July 20th – 21st we’ll be blogging from GovLoop and YGL’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Follow along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

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Tammy Seleski

This is a great article–thank you for writing it! I never thought of myself as “brave”; I can honestly say that I am frequently outside of my comfort zone when contacting employers. As I grow in my job it does become easier. Now, after reading this article, I will feel more like I am growing our economy in WI by connecting people to employment instead of feeling like I am bothering them!

Francesca El-Attrash

Tammy, I’m really glad to hear that! You definitely have more of a positive impact than you think. Thanks for continuing to be brave in your work!

Elizabeth, thanks for the kind words and thank you for your great speech! I learned a lot!