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KerryOn: Courage Creates Confidence

It takes courage to jump out of a plane. Lots of courage. I did this once. Not in a metaphorical “I did something scary once” kind of way. I mean I actually --- willingly -- jumped out of a plane. (Yes, I had a parachute.) My kids were little then, and they ran around the small landing area, decorated tastefully with a skull-and-crossbones flag, yelling with excitement squealing “mom is sky-dying… mom is sky-dying…” Throughout the preparation time, my husband and I learned techniques from packing a parachute to landing (both good skills to know). As I loaded onto the airplane tethered to my co-jumper, I asked him to take one more look at my kids, hoping this might inspire him to take extra care to keep us safe.  


As the plane took off, my emotions wavered between excitement and terror. This continued as I approached the open door, 10,000 feet above the ground. I took a deep breath, and jumped.


… …


I've been evaluating the word “confidence” more and more recently. As a leadership educator, I’m frequently asked about confidence: conference attendees, students, advisees, and working professionals are all curious about how to develop confidence. What I have realized recently is that we confuse confidence with courage; we see someone do something courageous, and we assume they are confident as they do it. But that’s not necessarily the case.  


This lesson hit me straight on when I was invited to be one of only two people on the ballot for president-elect of a national professional organization representing over 140 universities/colleges, 60,000 students, and 6,000 faculty. While the nomination committee seemed confident of my leadership abilities, I was not – not at this level, anyway. Like a true academic, I retreated to research, and got more information on how my skills could benefit the members of the organization. I interviewed people who previously held the position and those who worked closely with it so I could understand how to improve myself to better serve the role. Ultimately, I took a deep breath, and jumped. What I found along the way, was the courage to embrace the opportunity.


The day the online voting opened was an exercise in accepting vulnerability. Fortunately,

I received supportive texts and emails from across the nation. Again, my emotions wavered between excitement and terror during the month-long voting process. In the end, I lost the election.


While I may have lost the election, I gained a confidence I never imagined. Because I had the courage to run for the position, I became more confident in my leadership abilities. Once again, supportive messages came in from across the nation. Many colleagues in this professional organization shared their own election losses, and how they responded. I felt supported as I met new colleagues, and I made deeper connections. This was not a loss; this was a triumph.


It was my courage that allowed me to build my confidence. And the hard part is, there is no magic wand or short cut. Developing confidence is done through one courageous experience after another, after another, etc. All I know is the more courageous the act, the deeper the confidence potential. So perhaps it’s time to revisit that one thing you have been excited and terrified to do. Maybe now is the time to take a deep breath, and jump.

Special Note: Sometimes it takes a partner, people to cheer you on, and a parachute to jump. It is still scary. Do it anyway.

KerryOn Questions

Identify a time when an act of courage created confidence within you.

- What was your last courageous act? Did you experience excitement and terror?

- What is your next courageous act? When will you take a deep breath, and jump? 

The Kerry behind KerryOn

My name is Kerry K. Fierke, Ed.D. (pron. Fear-Key) I have a unique combination of skills and experience – decades of fast-paced corporate experience in Fortune 100 companies and large health care organizations, combined with the academic rigor of a highly ranked research university. My focus is supporting others to create their own path to leadership development, lifelong learning, and a unique leadership legacy. Take a moment to focus on leadership, then KerryOn!

To see all KerryOn's and other leadership stuff, visit

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Bravery. Plus adorable children in matching outfits.

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