Why Our Family Changed Our Last Name to “Courage”

Names, like words, have power to create reality. Your name has the potential to give your life meaning—and, long story short, my birth-certificate name (“chin” in Polish) was not something I could rely on for that.

After years of contemplation, we decided to create a new tradition, and formalize a timeless virtue into something I personally want to embody as a gift for my family, future generations, and others.

(Before we get back to more technical writing about finance (which we will!) I want to share a few thoughts and takeaways from this off-the-beaten-path experience with you.)

Courage is what the world needs.

We live in a world that seemingly continues to reward personal cowardice, or at least, we live in a world that is evolving to tolerate far too much. If this continues, we could be headed toward a future absolved of all personal responsibility that rewards window dressed authenticity. A life possessed by more and more noise about what others say we should be until we are long gone.

Lost. Too tired to explore what our lives could have been.

What does courage mean to our family?

It means authentically and unapologetically using your God-given gifts, passions, and quickly expiring life to empower and inspire others, even when you are scared. You might be afraid you don’t have what it takes.

You may be really, really afraid. But you carry on and do it anyway.

You aren’t reckless, you aren’t bold, you aren’t anything special.

You just decide.

Your life means more than your fear.

People had a range of reactions.

Many peers moved through “the stages of truth” when I told them.

First stage, ridicule, jokes, and cynicism: “Are you sure? Aren’t you worried what “X” will say, think, or do?” For those who could not move on from these thoughts, in most cases, it was clear, I’d hit a nerve. Maybe there was something deeper they were terrified to address in their own life, or maybe not.

Second stage, violent opposition: “You can’t! How?” It’s not hard: logistically, it’s not difficult in Colorado. A process like anything else worthy of an investment toward change in life.

Third stage, it became self-evident to those who made it this far. Raw. Real. Authentic living is missing. There’s so much fear to be our imperfect, raw selves—more than ever. So, with a fresh breath of vulnerability, I was exposed, and so many relationships felt richer than ever.

Many clients appreciated knowing my real story, and I want to thank each of you so much for the support, and your encouragement. It will always mean a lot to me. A few conversations transformed relationships with people I’d “known” for years. They were noticeably vulnerable for the first time in a long time. With anyone. Including themselves.

You might wonder what the most important person in my life thought. Do you? My daughter looked up at me, with her shimmery blue eyes and childlike awe, and didn’t hesitate for a second:

“Let’s do it dad.”

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure dad.”

What you can take away from my experience

Lives are lost for those who do not live, and choices get made for those who do not choose. Your occupation, education, religion, politics, morality, friends, family, where you live, what you value, and what you should do with your life. Along with your name. Before you know it, it is all chosen.

Time doesn’t care about any of it.

Each second, she bangs louder on the drum.

Every minute.

Every day, the drum gets louder.

Before long, your song is over.

Ask yourself

Are you purposely authoring your life and being who you want to be? Are you living a life true to yourself? Today, are you going after what is truly important to you? Do you believe it’s impossible to work less, make more money, and spend more time with your family? Why? The first step is courage.

*I wanted YOU to know. Thank you so much for you ongoing support, and for reading!

**UPDATE: I’ve gotten a fair amount of questions about our family name change, here’s a few: 

One, “Are you in trouble? Did you change your name due to any criminal or legal issues?”

No, our entire family changed our name, so between all of us needing FBI background checks, Colorado background checks, standing in front of a local judge, and having our name change in the local public newspaper, in addition to all the standard regulatory disclosures I voluntarily abide by as a licensed financial advisor, I think we can all feel safe and sure that’s not possible.

Two,Is this name change like a doing business as?

No, it’s not. It’s for future generations, and not a business name change.

Three, “If women are excepted to willingly change their surnames at a moment’s notice when they marry, and no one raises an eyebrow, why is it so different from your family making a commitment to each other?” “Why do you need to explain yourself?”

I understand being in a conservative industry, any change is met with resistance, and anything perceived as unconventional feels risky. I’m happy to explain why, and hope others will feel encouraged to live their lives on their terms.