Rugby

I played rugby in high school. I was never particularly good, or even particularly passionate about it, but playing rugby taught me an important lesson that has stuck with me ever since.

Growing up, I wasn’t a traditional geek or a traditional jock or really a traditional anything. I was curious, bookish, a little aloof, and abhorred conflict. I was on the math team and the basketball team. Because I was tall and athletic, I was lucky to never be a victim of bullying. To this day, I’ve only been in a single physical fight in my entire life: an awkward grappling match with another third grader on the front steps of my elementary school. I can’t remember what it was about, or who won.

Needless to say, the physicality of rugby came as a shock to me. We ran endless drills where you either tackled or were tackled. Imagine someone bigger, stronger, and faster than you running straight at you and your entire job is to throw your body at theirs at full speed and bring them to the ground where other players will pile on top, rucking for the ball. Now imagine that it’s not a drill, but a tournament, and that the guy sprinting toward you is an opponent, not a teammate, and that victory depends on you taking him down.

Frankly, it was harrowing.

No, I do not play rugby anymore.

But rugby taught me that if you really care about something, you have to be willing to take hits for it. In fact, really caring about something means being willing to take hits for it. Courage is a skill. You can practice it. You can develop it. Every time you feel afraid is an opportunity to summon it, whether in business, activism, art, marriage, sport, or any other arena. If you seek out your fears and face them, new worlds will open to you, worlds full of new fears for you to overcome. And then one day you’ll realize that wisdom is just what courage looks like in the rearview mirror.

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Complement with Be Bold, The Path, and How to Kill a Dragon.

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Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a monthly newsletter, tweets more than he probably should, and lives in Oakland, CA.

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