A few weeks ago, one of my clients challenged me on the value of finding his own “Alcatraz.”

See, back in January, I accepted the challenge to sign up for the September 14th Alcatraz Invitational (a swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco). At the time, I was a very poor swimmer, terrified of open water swimming, and Alcatraz seemed like an impossible goal. You can check it the original video here.

Ever since I signed up for it and started training, I’ve been asking my clients and friends “What’s your Alcatraz?” I want them to commit to their own “impossible” goal, and work towards achieving it.

So, my client pushed back on me when I asked him about his Alcatraz. He said that it didn’t make sense.

“Is swimming in the ocean keeping you from accomplishing some bigger life goal?” he asked. “Is your dislike of cold water keeping you from being a better leader?”  What’s the point of swimming Alcatraz? I just don’t get it.”

Here was my answer to him.

It’s not about swimming Alcatraz.

Listen, the most difficult things that you or I will ever have to do in life; as husbands, fathers, as men are going to take extreme courage. Whether it’s taking a risk in our job, having an uncomfortable conversation with our wife, or doing what we know is right with our kids even when it means pissing someone off. Those things take courage.

And the thing about courage is that it’s a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. The more you ignore it, the more it atrophies. So if courage is a muscle and if the most important actions in my life require gobs of it, I’d better give my courage a regular workout. I don’t want to have to dust it off when I need to step up in my life. I want it to be primed and ready to go.

So my Alcatraz swim isn’t about swimming Alcatraz. It isn’t even about raising money for Shoulder To Shoulder (the charity that we raised $5,850 for). Alcatraz is about practicing my courage. It’s about moving toward the things that scare me instead of avoiding them. It’s about proving to myself that my fears don’t run my life. It’s about gaining the confidence that I need to become the man I aspire to be.

That’s what it’s about.

There was silence on the line. Then he said, “It sounds like I need to figure out my Alcatraz.”

Courage is a muscle. It needs a regular workout. Figure out what scares the heck out of you, write it down, make a goal out of it. Then, go get it!

What’s YOUR Alcatraz?

p.s. The Alcatraz Invitational was last Sunday. I finished in 55 minutes. It was AWESOME! More on this to come.