As a writer, an inordinate amount of time is spent in the collection, contemplation and analysis of words. They are tools of expression with which I can build, so adding to the tool box is always a priority. If it is not the literal discovery of novel words, it is finding a new affinity for words already in my lexicon. Often because they seem to perfectly and efficiently convey a relevant thought. Even better when that meaning has personal significance.

Among the words I have grown most fond of in my writing travels, is one that I feel is absolutely critical in unearthing success and in reaching our potential as individuals. It has connotations both positive and negative, depending on the context. This word I love so sincerely, is audacity.

Audacity is not a word that many know well or are comfortable with, as it is one that comes with a certain edge. It is a “loaded” word, one that has the potential to back down or scare away the more timid among us. To be audacious is to bring to bear a certain boldness of spirit and unapologetic confidence not often found in common quarters. It means to take risks in a fashion that is generally frowned upon in decent society. With great risk comes great peril–that’s an undeniable fact. But also comes the potential for the greatest reward. It takes bravery in the face of such danger to ever transcend your situation or social class. It takes audacity to take the leap.

One reason there are negative associations made with the word audacity, is because audacious action makes a statement that is difficult for some to digest. It infers that the “way it is” is patently insufficient. It is disrespectful to the status quo. The way the next man lives is not enough for you, and you have the audacity to aspire to more. Hunger to achieve beyond the confines of the ordinary takes audacity. When you are willing to do the necessary work, and determined to illuminate an existence most can’t wrap their minds around, you stand out from the crowd. And the crowd often won’t stand for it. For everyone who has your back and shows support, expect commensurate scorn and dirty looks. Know you will be begrudged your desire. That’s all part of the deal. That’s the thing about ambition… It attracts and repels equally. If you want to fit in and be accepted by everyone, audacity ain’t for you.

In a world of lookism and like-chasing, it also requires balls to be an individual. Go with the flow and don’t make waves–that’s what society teaches. So when the tide of pop culture dictates the trends, it takes audacity to swim against the current. The day you are comfortable enough in your own skin to be authentically you is the first real day of your life… It is the first moment your true capacity comes into sharpest focus. And it is the only way to lead. Think like everyone else, speak like everyone else, dress like everyone else, and by definition, there is no way to be anything but a follower. Carry yourself like no one else, and to lead becomes your only choice. But it takes audacity to be out there, riding that wave alone.

To be so brash as to believe in your destiny despite the resistance of everyday life and the crushing weight of peer pressure and popular opinion… That alone is an act of rebellion. To find the courage to be audacious, it helps to come to understand how short and precious life is. To play it too safe, is to waste the priceless gift of that life. To allow your humility to trap you within the confines of the mundane, does a disservice to anyone who ever held your abilities in high esteem.

“How dare you?” the critics will undoubtedly ask as they ponder the magnitude of your aspirations.  The answer is simple. And it is the same as it has always been. I dare because I demand more of myself. I demand more of myself because life is too short to be anything less than a king. To believe in your purpose on this planet defiant to the challenges of your circumstances, it takes sheer audacity. To bring that purpose to life by means of your vision and hard work, is quite literally a dream come true… And there’s nothing more dope than that.