By facing her own fears, Nancy Belmont created something that has struck a cord all over the world. Belmont was a student in the Leadership Coaching Certificate Program in 2013. Over the course of the program, she found her life heading down a new path. She was inspired to find a way to share her insights and eventually created the “Courage Wall.”
Over several weeks in May and June 2015, the wall (an 8-feet tall by 20-feet wide chalkboard) stood in Alexandria, VA. In large letters across the top, the board said “I Wish I Had the Courage to …” Below that there were 100 spaces where, every day for four weeks, passersby had the opportunity to complete the sentence. By putting the idea out there, her message of courage has resonated throughout the area. Each day the board was filled anew. It became both a call to action and interactive public art.
The Courage Wall quickly gained national attention from major news outlets and then international attention, including an Aljazeera broadcast that went out to 35 million people and a tweet by first lady Michelle Obama. Belmont says that the wall was “a reaction to hearing clients (and myself) say over and over again that they couldn’t possibly be more of who they are because they were afraid of what would happen if they did.”
We asked Nancy about her life, work, and the Courage Wall.
How did you get to where you are now?
After working with countless leaders (and myself) I was driven to raise the consciousness of how fear holds us back from living bigger, bolder, more authentic lives. Inspired by Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” community chalkboards, I decided to erect a “Courage Wall” in my neighborhood. This 20’ x 8’ chalkboard reads, “I wish I had the courage to…” Each day, for a month, the board would fill up with over 100 declarations of courage.
There were entries like “…check into a shelter,” “…earn less money,” “…forgive my daughter for her drug addiction,” “…finish my book,” “be the man she thinks I am.” People from all walks of life poured their hearts out onto the board. Husbands and wives found new connections. Parents and children learned new things about each other. Strangers cried together.
The Courage Wall was so powerful it ended up in the Washington Post, Forbes, ABC and even on the TODAY Show. Aljazeera broadcast the story of the wall around the world to 35 million and even Voice of America Russia did a spot. The global hunger for the courage conversation became very apparent, so I started to work on how I could make it an integral part of my business.
We are in the process of creating Courage Walls for new communities, developing an online Courage Community and launching Courage Conversations events in the near future. We are partnering with non-profits to bring more courage to their constituents and working with teachers to develop Courage Curriculum. Courage, it seems, resonates with everyone. And it’s high time we had more of it!
What are your future goals?
I am very excited about continuing the conversation on courage. I learned some things from the Courage Wall that are important for all of us to remember. First, fear is part of what it is to be human. Fear lives in each one of us; it’s the way that we interact with the fear that determines how boldly we live. Second, there is more inside of each of us than we are today. Each of us has hopes and dreams of being more authentic, more impactful, more courageous than we are. I believe that if we can continue the courage movement, individuals, and our world, will be more vibrant, fruitful and alive.
Learn more about Nancy and the journey that led her to create the “Courage Wall” here.
The Courage Wall will be up at the Ballston Mega Market, Welburn Square, from July 2-31. Stay updated on the Courage Wall by following We Live Big on Twitter and Facebook.