What happened at Courage Camp

Here, Celine Schillinger, shares her experiences at Courage Camp. Developing the vocabulary of courage we share below. Exploring the nature of courage and our understanding of it, and how we can be courageous across our lives and in our leadership. A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read...

Vocabulary of courage

As Courage Camp goes on, I catch words or expressions heard from the group. Each brings a different dimension to our understanding of courage:

  • Acceptance: We aim to be accepted by whatever group we want to belong to. “What is the rejection I'm afraid of?
  • Coeur (Heart): : The English word ‘courage’ comes from the French word ‘courage’ (pronounced differently) which comes from the Latin word ‘cor’ = ‘heart’
  • Exhilarating: “Leap without a net – it’s exhilarating
  • Fear: “Courage is not (or not just) fearlessness. Courage maybe actually doing something with fear
  • Flight: “Fight or Flight? Sometimes it takes more courage to flight
  • Friend: “My courage as a child triggered painful consequences. So I stopped using it. I need to reinvent my relationship with Courage and make it a friend
  • Fun: “Courage is not just fight and tears. It can be astute and a lot of fun
  • Imperative: “Change was an imperative. Something that had to be done, whatever it takes
  • Muscle: “Courage is a muscle. It can be trained
  • Pain: “the goal in life is to be alive, not to be happy. To be alive, we need to experience the diversity of our emotions
  • Precious: “Precious cargo” is what we protect while going through life. A job, relationship, family, reputation, financial security, inner peace, our own beliefs... likability (especially for women)… They can limit courage when we’re not aware of them
  • Soldier on: “It’s about soldiering on and not complaining”. Related: "I was trying to power this through"
  • Vitality: “Bravery is only one element of courage. Creativity, perseverance, optimism, vitality, enthusiasm, honesty with oneself are also part of it


What Happened at Courage Camp

A Pink Bikini on Hope Street

Courage Camp starts with a Pink Bikini. On Hope Street. This can’t possibly go wrong.

It is a cool summer evening, August 2017. The crisp blend of watermelon and mojito, imagined by a fine bartender, freshens the palate and opens senses to the conversation. We’re five women around the table. We’ve come to Bristol, Rhode Island to attend Courage Camp, a first-of-its-kind 2-day retreat for people eager to explore the idea and the practice of courage. A dozen more will join the next morning when Courage Camp begins. Around the table, there is small talk and laughter, and some early thoughts about courage. The thin line between courage and foolishness. The need to self-protect. How courage may be more than a character trait and have to do with… age – especially for women (do you struggle with morons at work? check out this Maxine Waters’ moment “reclaiming my time”). In the news, the Charlottesville violent events and the Google Echo chamber controversy raise questions. Are the neo-Nazis “courageous” to parade in plain sight? Is the Google engineer “courageous” to oppose his company’s diversity policy? While courage is seen as a virtue, maybe it is just “fearlessness”, independent from moral values.

Lois Courage-Maker Kelly

At this point, I’m impatient for Courage Camp to start. It took a leap of faith (courage?) to register as I don’t know what to expect, but it was done fast. Lois Kelly is one of the three organizers. I don’t know yet the other two, Daniel Doucette and Jillian Reilly, but I’m an absolute fan of Lois. A few years ago, Lois’ Rebels at Work, along with Peter Vander Auwera’s Corporate Rebels, have provided some decisive inspiration – and courage – that helped me change and bring change. We both participate in a global network of future of work practitioners committed to changing work: Change Agents Worldwide. Together we had contributed to a fun event back in 2015, a 24-hour Rebel Jam, in which I’d shared “15 tips to resist a controlling culture”. Lois is a talented writer whose books I love. And I’ve had the immense pleasure to meet her in person several times since moving to Boston. Ahead of the Camp, I read a second time Lois’ blog post “Amplify Courage”.

The courage to share

Courage Camp is an experience I’m about to share with several people I know, which is both exciting and challenging. What I originally envisioned as a solo adventure evolved quickly into something else. First, my Twitter friend Simona registered and we decided to share a room there. Then my friend & colleague Agnes registered too and we switched to a triple room. Then my friend & colleague Zsuzsanna registered too – but there was no quadruple room 🙂 …Then my CAWW fellow Igo suggested me to live-blog. All right! Courage Camp won’t be a solitary event. Let’s return to what actually works best for me: sharing! It takes an additional step to expose oneself to people we know, but it’s worth it. Sharing makes courage more abundant.

A beautiful, spectacular, lovely, perfect place

Apologies for the adjectives overload. This place deserves it. Courage Camp takes place at Mount Hope Farm, nested on a vast saltwater farmland, with a history of more than 300 years. As we get to know our environment on the first morning, under a perfect blue sky, we are blown away by the beauty of the historical buildings, the manicured gardens, the exquisite forest trail leading to the Cove Cabin. There, on the shore of Mount Hope Bay, a charming authentic log cabin with large windows and a deck is an invitation to reflection and creativity. Sixteen chairs forming a circle are ready for us, on the lawn, under the trees next to the Cabin. Courage Camp starts.