Hi everyone. This week, February 1st, we usher in the Lunar New Year. In Vietnam, where I was born, Tết is a big deal. It’s like Christmas, Fourth of July, Superbowl, and Shark Week combined. The entire country is consumed with an air of festivity as people decorate with branches of plum and apricot blossoms, make sticky rice cakes and candied fruit, and clean houses and altars. Incessant Tết music plays everywhere as the intoxicating scent of sandalwood wafts through the air.
To be culturally respectful, you should take the entire day, if not week, off.
This is going be the year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes courage and fierceness. It is the diametric opposite of the Monkey, whose strength is in thinking and strategy. This is not to say that Tigers don’t think. They do. But they are geared toward action. And that’s what this year will be about. Courage, however, can manifest in many different ways. Here are 22 that I’ve thought of. Pick a few and do them this year:
- Talk to a friend on the phone: It may feel weird and scary to talk to someone on the phone, but before texts, this is how our ancestors communicated, and it’s nice to keep ancient traditions alive.
- Post something real on social media: Sure, that perfectly crafted picture of you with dewy youthful skin and smiling kids will get lots of likes. But how about a photo of you looking disheveled, surrounded by dirty laundry while your kids are setting the couch on fire behind you?
- Admit something to yourself you’ve been hiding: We all have things we are in denial about, even with ourselves. Do what I do: Look in the mirror, take a deep breath, stare yourself in the eyes, and say “I am resistant to play Wordle because I have a deeply-rooted fear of failure and rejection.”
- Be vulnerable. We must stop with the facades. It’s ok to not be ok. Scream if you need to. Slide down poetically against a wall and then weep softly into your hands if you need to. Then pick yourself up and complete your order at Chipotle; you’re holding up the line.
- Publicly call out something inequitable. For example, if you see an organization or business post a job posting that does not have a salary listed, go on Twitter and call them out by name for wasting everyone’s time and perpetuating racial and gender wage gaps. Extra courage points if you currently work for this organization or company.
- Put your thoughts out there regarding something important: Write an op-ed or article or make a video. Who knows, maybe your piece about the solenodon will get people to finally ask “what the hell is a solenodon” and care about this tiny, venomous, endangered mammal.
- Admit that you were wrong about something: Whether it’s about the effectiveness of vaccines, how being a billionaire is unethical, or the redeeming qualities of Love Actually (none), it’s never too late to own up to the fact that you got something wrong.
- Like yourself for who you are: You are an incredible person just the way you are, and your existence makes the world better! Unless, of course, you voted against voting rights or for banning books, in which case you’re a dreadful person whose existence makes the world worse and you really should change.
- Face your own mortality: It takes courage to acknowledge our frail mortal coil and our inevitable, sometimes sudden, demise. Update your will, healthcare directives, and other documents. Here’s a good resource with checklists and templates.
- Let that one thing go: You know what I am talking about. That thing. That one thing that happened that one or more times and/or has been ongoing that may have had some degree of impact on your and/or a loved one’s life. It’s time to let it go.
- Love again: Maybe you’ve had your heart broken and over the years it has calloused up and you think it may never beat again. But as a wise philosopher once said, “It’s in the stars, it’s been written in the scars on our hearts. We’re not broken, just bent, and we can learn to love again.”
- Clean your fridge: This may seem like a minor thing, but have you seen your fridge and freezer lately? Is that mold colony on the neglected bag of leftover riced cauliflower developing into an advance civilization that’s about to achieve space exploration? Yikes!
- Call an elected official: Lots of important things are on the line. It can be anxiety-inducing to call your senator or representative, but remember, they are representing you. And also keep in mind they are probably dreading talking to you as much as you them.
- Acknowledge your complicity in perpetuating white supremacy: It takes courage to recognize the ways you have been upholding white supremacy, patriarchy, and injustice.
- Quit something: A committee. A board. A job. A relationship. That one-person play you’re doing. Whatever that’s no longer bringing you and others joy, have the courage to gracefully bow out.
- Confront your deepest, darkest fear. It’s probably spiders. It’s spiders, isn’t it?
- Give a public testimony: Those two minutes you’re allowed are torturous. But we all need to do more public testimonies, to counter the neighborhood bigots who somehow always have time.
- Challenge a person or an institution that has been abusing power: An obnoxious donor, a micromanaging board member, a CEO who bans the Oxford Comma, etc. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to them, but it does make the world a better, kinder, and safer place.
- Fail at something new: Try something that’s outside your comfort zone, knowing that you will likely not do well at it and could, in fact, embarrass yourself. Like stand-up comedy, woodcarving, or joining the gym.
- Get angry, call BS, and flip over a table: The next time you attend a meeting and something is not right, call it out. Slam your hand on the table and scream, “This plan is ridiculous! Look at us! You are all clowns! And I am a clown for letting us get to this point!”
- Give up something of value in order to advance equity: Maybe it’s a spot on a panel. Maybe it’s a reduction in your pay or a promotion. Maybe it’s that new hairstyle you thought you could pull off. Courage is not just about what we do, but what we don’t do, and sometimes what we are willing to sacrifice.
- Make amends with someone. It takes a lot of strength and courage to settle our differences with someone and repair the relationship, and it doesn’t always work. But this is the year to do it. I’m going to reach out to a former friend and say, “I’m sorry I called your favorite movie horrible. I hope we can be friends a—” Nevermind, I can’t do it. Love Actually is a dealbreaker.
Happy Year of the Tiger! As we say in Vietnamese culture, “không ai sẽ chú ý, viết gì vào đây cũng được,” which means “wishing you good health, endless prosperity, and overflowing courage.”