The Courage to Succeed When You’re Not OK

Written by:

Kyle Hermans

CEO & Co-Founder

How to keep achieving and succeeding — even when adversity surrounds you and your team

For over a decade, we’ve helped companies, teams, and leaders navigate difficult times with courage – disruptors, market shifts, layoffs, pandemics, and even wars. 

We’re not just “thought leaders;” we are out there doing the work. Kyle, for example, recently spent a week in the Middle East helping a company strategize their short-term future and long-term impact amid tumultuous political conditions, all while keeping employees’ motivation up. We held the torch high for a company striving to keep forward movement, lighting the way.

How do we keep achieving and succeed in a world where adversity doesn’t knock before entering?

How do we keep our companies thriving when people face the most difficulties and devastations they’ve ever felt or witnessed? It’s difficult to care about their next innovation, product launch, or contract when people don’t even feel the basic human need for safety, whether at home or in the world.

Today’s challenges and reactions

The challenges we face in modern times are many: 

  • Layoffs threatening job security
  • Erratic market conditions 
  • Scarcity of resources
  • The extreme pace of change 
  • Increasing natural disasters
  • Human rights issues 

Even if not experiencing struggles first-hand, seeing and feeling the weight of others gives us a collective unease. And then there are personal battles each person faces – safety concerns, family upheavals, or loss and pain.

We’re seeing symptoms of global stress every day – we see employees at the highest levels of distraction, numbness, and feeling a loss of control and certainty.

Identities are shaken as the known gives way to the unknown. 

In such a state, self-preservation kicks in, with creativity, motivation, and clarity going by the wayside. Panic, shutting down, tension, and increased sensitivity. The very act of any communication in a distressed state can feel Herculean.

We’re witnessing leaders and individuals being plagued by self-doubt and imposter syndrome and questioning the value of their actions in a world that seems perpetually off-kilter and even dangerous. They’re saying, “I just don’t know what to do, to succeed” as if anyone is supposed to know what to do in these never-seen-before times. It can feel paralyzing in a world where we must take action most.

In recent “MESH” 360 leadership assessments we’ve hosted, we’ve seen companies score lowest in two areas: 

1) The ability to have empathic accuracy

2) Clarity, lack of vision and communicating a vision for the future. 

These, then, is the biggest opportunity for improvement.

How “OK” are you / your team?

First, measure how “ok” you and your team are. There are different levels, from “I feel stressed but empowered to take action” to “I’m paralyzed by fear and cannot function normally.”

In the face of such diversity of what could make a person distressed, from the fear of losing a job to losses of loved ones and personal safety, help must be equally nuanced.

Then, ensure your team has a safe environment to share concerns and a supportive and collaborative culture. As you can see, the more a person feels supported, the more they’ll be able to focus on tasks needed to succeed versus self-preservation. 

Adoption from Syneticsworld

Paralysis to purpose

Here’s what we’ve been seeing succeed to unlocking courage and collaboration in these trying times. We’ve used actionable ideas and practical solutions to help leaders, teams, and companies struggling with motivation and productivity.

Acknowledgment of our shared humanity: Validate your and your team’s feelings, establishing that it’s okay not to be okay and that vulnerability is a shared human condition.
Ask how you can be there for others and what kind of help you or a colleague needs.

Build courageous relationships: Build a company culture where employees can communicate with radical candor and feel safe sharing their truth, where fears about job security, world issues, or personal challenges can be openly expressed and addressed.

Communication: Ask genuinely about how your colleagues are (really) doing. With no requirement to share, at the beginning of a meeting, either one-on-one or in a team with a trusting rapport, you can ask “Trinity” questions. We do this exercise at Be Courageous to start our weekly meetings. Each person tells 1) What they’re grateful for, 2) What they desire, and 3) What they’re proud of. Then, we ask each other what support we need for that week. Answers run the gamut from professional wins and support needs to personal. And anything goes.

Provide clarity and courage: Remind your team and yourself of your vision of what succeeding looks like amidst uncertainty and empower action through clear goals and expectations, even if small. Empowerment comes from action. Where there’s fear, there is always courage, and courage is action in the face of fear. 

Calm: Find your center and help your team stay grounded. A calm mind fosters clarity of thought. Here’s a way to calm your nervous system right now.

Navigating turbulent journeys

  1.   Start with acknowledgment. Identify where you’re at and what you’re feeling.

  2.   Consider what actions you can take right now to succeed with the resources you do have at your disposal.

  3.   Create a culture that respects emotions and provides safety for expression.

  4.   Address the need for control by clarifying intentions and fostering an environment of stability.

  5.   Act “as if.” Change starts with you. It begins with changing your energetic state. Ask the difficult questions, and choose how to act. This is not about reactivity; it’s about choice. The choice to operate from a place of optimism, to act ‘as if,’ to envision not just being okay but thriving. To work from a place of resolution versus vengeance.

  6.   Find ways to be a positive “cause” of a situation rather than the “effect” of it. 

  7.  Don’t sweep issues under the rug. Find a time and safe place to let them surface, experience them, and allow them to pass. Emotions are waves, and like the ocean, they will crest and trough. Our job? To surf them as gracefully as possible.

Remember, the most profound courage often stems from the grit to accept and face reality, to process emotions healthily, and to seek the silver lining.

The courage to succeed

At Be Courageous, we believe every challenge carries the seed of opportunity. 

This is more than just a call to action; it’s a call to rise. To find the gift in the grit, to be leaders in the truest sense – not by denying the darkness, but by guiding others toward the light. To find the courage to be okay, even when the world is not.

Need support navigating today’s uniquely difficult challenges in yourself or your team? Reach out, we’re here to help. 

Co-writers: Jenna Hermans and Shannon Geher

Succeeding Amid Adversity Tool

Use this free tool to help you and your team increase motivation and continue achieving when navigating stressful life and world situations.


Corporate Fragility


Most of us agree that we are really only at the tip of a massive amount of change. The 2020s will be the decade of challenge for the globe.

Corporate Fragility


Most of us agree that we are really only at the tip of a massive amount of change. The 2020s will be the decade of challenge for the globe.

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