A story about a brave dog.

This is Zuki.

He is a dog.

Today he is a glossy, healthy boy with lots of personality.

But when we first adopted him from the rescue place, he was not in the best shape.

We don’t know his full backstory, but when we got him he had itchy bits, sores on his skin, and big chunks of hair missing. One leg was almost completely bald. He was so tired and lethargic. Sometimes he would sit upright and then fall asleep (while still sitting up) and slowly topple over.

And he was terrified of water.

Even the gentlest water—like a quiet babbling brook, only a few inches deep—completely scared him. He would step close, look at it nervously, and then dodge away as if thinking, “I am not getting close to that liquid demon, not a chance, no thank you!”

But, gradually, little by little, we’ve watched his bravery grow.

One day, he felt ready to tentatively dab one paw into the water.

A few months later, he walked in all the way up to his belly.

Eventually, if we tossed a ball into the water, he would go retrieve it.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched this little fur-baby confidently leeee-aaaaapp into the water, splash around, grab a stick, and even doggy-paddle swim in the deeper part. Completely wet! Plus a happy shake-shake-shake to dry off once he was back on dry land.

He has even conquered his greatest fear: ocean waves! At the beach, if he sees a wave coming onto the shore, he stands a respectful distance away but he no longer cowers behind my legs.

Watching Zuki’s transformation has been such a joy.

And, his story carries so many lessons for us humans, too.

This is what Zuki has taught me about bravery:

– The thing that terrifies you the most might eventually become your most favorite thing. And isn’t that so strange and wonderful to consider.

– Zuki used to be terrified of water but now he loves playing in it. Maybe you are terrified of marketing, sales, raising your pricing, pitching, public speaking, or sharing your writing publicly. Maybe one day this will be something you do confidently and even enjoy deeply. Incredible changes can, and do, happen.

– Bravery is a progression. You can start small and build from there.

– Maybe today, you take a tiny brave step. Text a friend to let them know that you started your own business and ask them to celebrate this new chapter with you. A few months later, a scarier step. Raise your prices instead of undercharging or working for free. Maybe eventually, a major step. Do a national media appearance to share your story with the world. Every step builds momentum. Every step is a big deal.

– Just like Zuki, something that feels impossible today might feel completely normal, routine, mundane, or even “easy” one year from now. A lot can change in a year.

– A kind person can guide you to the water and help you feel safe, but only you can decide whether to dip in your paw or not.

– You have to make that first move, even if it feels scary. Nobody can do it for you. You have to be the one to raise your hand and ask, or submit the proposal, or apply for the grant, or ask someone to hire you, or attempt the new thing and do it messily and try again, or whatever step feels oh-no-no-no scary to do. It’s you. It’s got to be you.

– You are braver than you think. You are a survivor. You are resilient. You are scrappy and tough. You have done brave things in the past and you can do it again. You can and you will.

And Zuki is cheering for you.