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While the title of this post sounds trite, I’m borrowing it’s true meaning from the Harvard Graduate School of Education‘s Dean James Ryan and his 2014 Commencement Speech. As leaders, we continually seek better efficiencies, time management techniques, and tips and tricks to make our days more productive. However, Dean Ryan meant something different — and far more profound — in his message to graduates:

Don’t waste time being afraid.  I can’t think of a larger obstacle to happiness or success than fear.  We all face fears, large and small, every day.  You need to get rid of them.  Or, I should say, overcome them.  I don’t mean to dwell on my father’s death, but when he died I realized how pointless it is to be afraid – afraid of meeting someone new, afraid of doing poorly at work, afraid of trying something new, afraid of being in a new situation, afraid of embarrassment, afraid of not fitting in.  You are going to feel a lot of pressure to conform, whether in your workplace, or in your neighborhood, in raising your kids, or in creating your relationships.  Don’t be afraid to do what you think is right, to do what you think is fun, to do what you think might work.  Have the courage to disagree or to say no, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to search for common ground, which sometimes requires more courage than simply voicing disagreement. Have the courage to do something that hasn’t been tried before, to do something that might be a total flop. Don’t be afraid, in other words, to stumble or even fail.  Happiness is risk’s reward.  The only rewards of fear are boredom and bitterness.

I had the amazing opportunity to listen to Dean Ryan’s speech as I received my Ed.D. diploma at HGSE’s 2014 Commencement last week. I will retain this powerful paragraph for future reflection; I encourage you to do the same. We all face moments that require courage, whether to stand up, to sit down and talk, or to persevere. Let’s not waste time on fear, but approach our daily work with the audacity to believe in our teams and how we will make our organizations great places to work and learn.

Looking to strengthen your courage muscle? Watch Dean Ryan’s speech here. In the previous paragraph, my links offer you pithy quotes about courage to include in your leadership communications (or under your desk blotter)… Join us on August 6th, in Chicago, IL, to hear from  superintendents, board members, and school leaders with proven results in student achievement, parent satisfaction, workforce engagement, and service excellence at the What’s Right in Educationconference. It’s a free opportunity to learn with other courageous leaders who make a difference for their students and communities.



MatarazzoDr. Melissa Matarazzo is a Coach at Studer Education. Dr. Matarrazo began her career as a middle school teacher and assistant principal in Derry, New Hampshire.Prior to joining Studer Education, Dr. Matarazzo served as the Executive Director for Achievement and Accountability in the Charleston County (SC) School District. She has served as a supervisor of teacher interns at the College of Charleston, SC and an adjunct instructor at American International College in Springfield, MA. Follow Dr. Matarazzo on Twitter at @LrngLdr and follow Dr. M’s weekly post “Try This Tip” here.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the sixth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.