Courage is not the absence of fear

September 29, 2022

By Jeff Becraft


Walter Payton was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. At one point, he was the all-time leader in rushing yards until Emmitt Smith passed him for the number one spot.

There is an interview film clip of another NFL player talking about when he was a rookie with the Bears. He tells the story of Walter Payton coming over to him before his first game and sitting next to him and asking him, “Are you nervous?”

The rookie shrugged it off and said, “Nah.” Later, he confessed that he felt like throwing up in his helmet.

The Hall of Fame running back said to him, I’m nervous before every game… but after the first hit, I’m all right.” Hall of Famer… nervous before every game… like we think we are the only ones who feel that way.

Our son had a pretty dramatic turnaround in his life about 8-9 years ago. I was going to be speaking at a camp for children’s home kids and I asked him if he would tell his story.

He responded, “I’d rather throw up.”
“I know… that’s why I’m asking you to do it.  It will be another step in your growth and I think it will mean a lot to those there.”
“That will look great… be up there speaking and say, ‘Excuse me,’ and lean over and throw up and then say, ‘Now where was I….?'”

He wound up doing an incredible job. It was one of the highlights of the whole weekend.

A valuable lesson I learned from one of my mentors and that we pass on over the years in the YC experience is: Courage is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of fear.

Before any event, I am usually nervous. Sometimes really nervous. And sometimes, I can’t even tell you why.

But after the first “hit” (the first hello, the first announcement, the first box unloaded…), then I’m usually all right.

I heard recently, whenever you feel nervous or fearful, “take one step forward.” After the first hit, you’ll be all right.


Jeff Becraft is the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].