General Advice Warning. The information on Dad Mode is intended to be general in nature and is not personal financial or product advice.

I usually try to avoid modelling my life after movies.

If I did, I probably would have tried to get bitten by a radioactive spider in high school. Although my hands were already sticky back then, so I guess it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Come on, it’s too early in the article for that nonsense, stay focused.

Typically, pop culture doesn’t offer much in terms of psychological teachings. Movies in particular these days are often just filled with explosions and bad pickup lines. The action is good, the advice is bad.

Don’t skip therapy to go to the movies is my advice…

However, now and then you come across a movie that offers up some life advice so good that you can forgive the bad acting, terrible CGI and lack of any kind of story line.

The saying.‘Take what is good and leave the rest’ is important to keep in mind with this one.

The movie was We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

Here’s how it went, (not that it matters).

Matt’s character tragically looses his wife, then moves his dysfunctional family to an old house in the country.
In a surprising twist, they could only buy the house if they would take the run down zoo that was attached to it. Animals and all.

Negligent animal care aside, they move in and start the difficult task of making new fences, learning how to feed big cats and cleaning up poo etc. While doing this, the head zoologist (ScarJo) falls in love with him and well you know the rest.

Forgets about his dead wife, happy family etc…

It was very predictable.

Now, the advice that I want to tell you about isn’t that if you go and buy a zoo, you will meet a suspiciously perfect (second) wife and your kids will stop being dicks. Although that might work for some of you??

The real golden nugget from the movie is that sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of courage.

Simple and pointed but when thought about, actually very profound.
Props to the writers, for this part at least.

Here’s how it fit into the story.

Matt Damon was walking past a café, and he spots a woman inside (his future dead wife) that he instantly falls in love with (very realistic). He enters, but is terrified of talking to her.

Eventually, he takes a breath and tells himself, “All I need is 20 seconds of courage”.
He approaches her with confidence. The rest is the usual romantic movie stuff, laying in bed with each other, babies etc.

Later on in the movie this principle comes up a few times with his son, daughter and eventually back with him when he takes the leap to hook up with ScarJo.

All you need is 20 seconds of courage, and you can do anything.

So, why do I think this is such a good principle to live by?

The fact is, no one can be courageous all the time, it’s just not realistic. I see courage as something that you call upon when you need it, then once you’re done, you put it away ready for the next moment.

The relationship between courage and fear.

Like fire requires oxygen to burn, courage needs fear to operate. You can’t have one without the other.

Nelson Mandela once said

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Now, Mr Mandela and I have very little in common. Although I have been inside his prison cell on Robyn Island in South Africa, so maybe we're closer than you think?
But one thing I think is missing from his idea is the practical use of the fear. Don’t just conquer it, use it as fuel.

This sounds pretty corny, but it’s a good idea to live by, a little change of perspective can go a long way.

Fear can be a good thing.

In saying this, you don’t have to be courageous all the time. In fact, it doesn’t feel good in the moment, so why would you want to be?

If you’re lucky, you don’t need it all of the time.

You shouldn’t need courage when you clean the house or do the grocery shopping, the absence of fear in a situation negates the need for it.

Now, because being courageous can be so uncomfortable, it’s easy to avoid situations where it’s required.
Asking someone out on a date, setting boundaries with your parents, or even walking in to your first job interview.

All of these require courage AT THE START.

Ever feel the nerves melt away as soon as you start talking to the girl? Or feel your hands stop shaking when you realise your future boss is a nice guy? You don’t need to be courageous the whole time, you just need to get in the door.

20 seconds is all it takes.

To start the conversation, to walk up to the girl you’ve been thinking about, or to ask for the raise you deserve. Just start, the rest will work itself out.

20 seconds of courage is your gateway to facing the things you need to face, consistently and with less pain. It’s your first step into the life you have always wanted but been too afraid to pursue.

So take a breath, burn that fear fuel and count to twenty.

I’ll see you on the other side.