“When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. I wanted to tell stories and use them to teach people things.”

That’s how Valerie Garcia opened her session at Inman Connect New York, which focused on creating a culture of bravery.

Garcia’s view: We were all brave once, but life gets in the way. This is because our fears and our dreams are the same — we dream of the things we fear doing.

“As children, we know who we were created to be. Do you remember who you wanted to be when you grew up?

“Somehow, as we become adults, we talk ourselves out of doing that very thing.”

The defining moment

“My very first job right out of high school, I worked in a real estate office, and it was my job to answer the phones and type contracts,” Garcia remembered.

She told the story of what she called the “defining moment of her life.” An agent in the office had a deal fall through. In despair, the agent asked, “How am I going to feed my kids now?”

“I will never forget that look in her eyes all those years later,” Garcia said.

And Garcia’s boss had a choice: to suggest that this agent find a more reliable job or to encourage her to keep going.

We are all scared, all the time

“We are all scared, all the time. We all walk around scared all day, every day. We’re scared of losing a friendship, approval, a deal, a customer, a relationship.

“But fear isn’t something we really like to talk about,” she said.

Creating a culture of bravery

“Bravery isn’t what you might think it is. It isn’t an absence of fear,” Garcia said.

“Bravery simply means that we are willing to try. And we also need to be willing to fail.

“Do you know the no. 1 reason why we don’t execute on our hopes and our goals and our dreams? We’re afraid.”

Leaders can help establish a culture of bravery in their companies, she said — by following these steps.

1. Choose to give up what you know

Making a conscious decision that you are not going to fall back on tactics and techniques that you already know and trust is tough — but it’s a brave thing to do.

2. Be willing to be seen and to fail ‘out loud’

It’s easier to stand in the shadows, but stepping up to show people who you really are — unapologetically — is usually going to encourage them to do the same.

If your employees see you willing to publicly fail (and admit it), they’ll be more willing to do it, too.

3. Be able and willing to ask for help

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for,” said Oprah Winfrey — and that includes help.

4. Overcome fear with practice

If you deliberately expose yourself to things you find scary (public speaking, anyone?), you’ll soon realize that the worst fears aren’t, well, much to be afraid of after all.

5. Make bravery an employee benefit

You should tell your employees: “It’s mandatory to think outside the box, and we want you to take risks, and we’re going to be encouraging you to fail,” advised Garcia.

6. Stop waiting

“We are all guilty of waiting until we feel ready.” And few of us ever feel ready.

So what are you waiting for?

“How are you going to tackle your one big goal this year, and how are you going to encourage the people you work with to do the same thing?” Garcia asked.

“We knew what we wanted to be and what we are created for. You still are that person deep down. Those qualities are still there, just waiting for you to be brave.”

Email Amber Taufen

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