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Stepping out in Courage with Thenu Herath

By August 14, 2022Event, Schools

Our annual Altitude Day roadshow cultivates a space for courage in action , providing the platform for guest speakers to share their story, passions, life, and leadership tips with over 2,000 young people across Australia. Stepping out in courage is no small feat, it is an individual experience, unique to each person. 

So we asked Thenu Herath, Melbourne Altitude Day guest speaker and CEO of Oaktree, what it takes for her to step out in courage, and the impact these acts of courage have in her world, this is what she had to share:

What is your definition of courage? What does courage look like to you?

To me, courage is about being your authentic self. For a long time I was scared to be my authentic self, [particularly] growing up as someone with a different culture from those around me. To me, courage is being okay with who you are, and where you’ve come from, and using that in your work.

What are three steps you take and/or how do you prepare yourself to step out in courage?

1. Ground yourself in the people that got you where you are today: Reminding yourself of the sacrifices made by parents, teachers and mentors who have invested in you as an individual.
2. Be prepared: Be so well prepared that nothing can catch you out!
3. Have FUN! If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, it’s not worth stressing over. 

What is one courageous act you have done this year? Please describe the impact on yourself and/or others.

I was invited to take part in the Youth National Security Strategy, an innovative platform that envisions national security as being more than just defence, such as climate security, social security, and health security. During this platform, I was asked to give a speech in front of the Chief of the Army, and many members of the defence force who aren’t my usual crowd. I was tackling with what I should say in my speech, should I share what I had prepared, or use the opportunity and space provided to make a statement about how much more inclusive this space could be. I was scared to deliver parts of the speech, based on the crowd I was speaking to, but I made the decision to step out in courage and make the statement… And it actually turned out really well. It was very well received, and the conversations I had after were that it was ultimately something that needed to be said. 

To me, courage is being okay with who you are, and where you've come from, and using that in your work.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a young person that wants to step out, but feels as though they are lacking the courage to do so?

Ultimately, imagine what the worst thing that could happen is… Even if that were to happen, remember that you are still yourself, you still have those people around you. Then imagine the BEST thing that could happen. Weigh up the risk you want to take, is the BEST thing worth it? Even if the worst thing eventuates? 
Most of the time, the BEST thing is worth the risk. 

You are never alone when you step out in courage (although sometimes it can feel like you are), we know that a support structure is important through these times. Who and/or what is involved in your support structure?

I’ve been lucky to have a strong support structure throughout my life, a phone call with my Mum and Dad is what grounds me and supports me through the most difficult times, also my friends and my partner. It’s easy when you’re busy to forget friendship and the connections you have built in your life, ultimately for me these connections are the most important to my life and I will never let work or ambitions cloud my time and appreciations I have for those people.

The best way to built a support network is to get involved with local clubs and associations, that’s how I did it. It’s about putting yourself out there, and being in those sometimes uncomfortable spaces, because you never know the friendships that can come from it!

Stay connected with Thenu by following along on Instagram and LinkedIn, and find out more about her work with Oaktree here!