What is Bravery?

Yesterday, Wordpress (the website that allows me to bring this blog to you) sent me an e-mail suggesting that I write a post addressing “the bravest thing you’ve ever done.”  It struck me that I could apply that question directly to my profession, as often bravery is at the heart of design. To be “brave”, according to Dictionary.com, means:

1. To meet or face courageously: to brave misfortunes.

2. To defy; challenge; dare.

How often do I meet or face courageously?  I might generously answer: daily.  Some might say just getting out of bed can be an act of courage.  But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  Daily, as design professionals, we must make decisions.  We must choose the width of a path, the height of a wall, the length of a beam.  We must decide how to communicate our ideas to our peers and to our clients.  We must be courageous to suggest our deepest thoughts to those who are capable of shooting us down with a shake of the head, crushing our hours of glorious contemplation in a split second.  We must speak our minds and forge a path.  As designers, some might argue, requires courage daily.  Not to mention braving misfortunes.

But I’m more intrigued by the second definition.  To defy.  To challenge.  To Dare.  How often do we actually reach those lofty heights?  How often do we truly put our necks out-- suggest something contrary to our clients’ preconceived notions; contrary to our bosses’ well-intentioned strategies?  Not often, I’d guess.

As I’ve said before, design, especially zoo design, tends to push forth, birthing innovation once in a blue moon, only to then regurgitate and spew forth a lesser and lesser version of that once impressive original concept.  Instead of continually challenging our designs, instead of continually working to improve the previous iteration, to learn from our mistakes and successes, we far too often just simply pull out examples and drawings from the last time we built that barrier or concepted that raptor exhibit, and copy.  Copy.  Copy.

So as I consider the question ‘What is the bravest thing I’ve ever done?’ I realize, embarrassingly, I haven’t done it yet.