Overcoming one’s fears and finding courage is more than a life skill; it’s a journey and one of the most powerful ways to gain purpose and find meaning. Indeed, our level of courage helps to shape and fuel life’s experiences. The far-reaching topic of courage is the subject of The Courage Map: 13 Principles to Living Boldly by author Franziska Iseli.
Iseli certainly expanded her courage boundaries by following the seed of her desire to ride a motorbike along the more than 7,000-mile Silk Road—no small feat. She finished the journey and that experience alone makes her uniquely qualified to write about pushing the boundaries of courage. In other words, courage involves exploring the borders of and expanding your comfort zone. The author imparts her knowledge of the subject by relating her personal life experiences in an engaging, relatable way.
The Courage Map takes the reader on a journey through some of the basic principles of courage in the author’s experience while providing practical and sometimes humorous insights. You will likely find her words of wisdom insightful as you consider taking on a grand adventure, living larger, or even tackling smaller things like facing a difficult conversation or telling someone what you really think in a light way.
Principles to live boldly
The Courage Map is organized into chapters or sections which guide the reader through 13 principles of courage. Each principle is playfully explored through the author’s lens. For example, in the Trust section, the author relates on her Silk Road motorbike trip how her belief of the “universe has your back” allowed her to literally walk off with a stranger encountered in a shop in a Turkish village in search of sustenance, only to be led by the good samaritan to a bakery offering fresh bread. And, when she returned to the first shop, the owner paid for her groceries.
Each section also features affirmations related to each principle (Travel Tunes), and exercises which can be practiced over 30 days (Pit Stop); and questions to reflect upon (Travel Journal). The book isn’t overloaded with exercises, and the exercises are easy to do because the author relates how she has practiced them.
For example, in the chapter on the principle of Love, the author shares how she practices her “heart drop-in” exercise to overcome her fears of oncoming ocean waves during surfing or when taking the stage for a keynote address. Consider these questions posed in the Travel Journal section on the principle of Flow: “How would your life change if you embrace flow? What would happen if you surrendered more?”
In exploring the principle of Playfulness and how it can apply to life’s situations, such as standing up for what you believe in, challenging someone, or facing combativeness in others, Iseli gives memorable advice on being lightheartedly serious by using candor and humor to “disarm disempowering stories.”
Finding the roots of courage
While other books may draw similar connections between courage and non-attachment and compassion, among other virtues, this book does it in style. Other books on courage also make the connection between courage and fear but this book shines for its concise and lively discussion as part memoir and part self-help book. Engaging storytelling of the author’s Silk Road experiences—which left this reader wanting more—and the structure of the book make it a stand out in the Self-Help and Transformation categories.
One thing the book didn’t note is that the root of the Old French word for courage, curage, is from the word cuer meaning “heart.” But the concept of keeping your heart open applied to courage is a deep insight of the book. It’s clear the author followed her own advice in writing with an open heart by revealing her vulnerabilities and sense of humor, not just giving tips in a clinical way.
Ultimately, Swiss author Iseli is successful in her mission to show the reader how to grow their courage. She notes in the chapter on the Commitment principle: “Playing a bigger game can be daunting because it often comes with choices to shake things up and not stay safe.” The choice to expand courage is left to the reader, and to one or more areas of their being whether mental, emotional, physical, spiritual or intellectual.
The Courage Map (TCK Publishing, 2020) is a book is a gem of a book with wide appeal. It’s ideal for those seeking inspiration or support to overcome their own fears and limitations, or even those interested in reading about motorbiking the Silk Road.