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Following the Courageous Journey of Oliver James

Have you been keeping up with Oliver James, the 34-year-old man on an adult learning journey to read? If not, I strongly recommend you start doing so. His posts are a remarkable blend of beauty and complexity, an inspirational display of navigating courage.

Whenever I watch Oliver's videos of his reading progress, it illuminates all four of the core ideas behind my Navigating Courage framework, a human-centered approach to leadership and being.

Be Human: In his eyes, I see both pain and light. And when he reads, it’s like listening to God create; it is a world made new thanks to fresh eyes. You see, Oliver's journey encapsulates the essence of embracing one's full humanity. It underscores the complex and constantly evolving nature of being human. And with every new post, Oliver makes this evolution tangible and visible.

Be In Community/Interconnectedness: Oliver's videos have garnered support from around the world. While the raw footage deeply touches my heart, what brings tears to my eyes repeatedly is the outpouring of love and encouragement from strangers who stand alongside him through his struggle. They share affection and validation, and many share their own stories of battling reading difficulties. It is a reminder that Courage is Contagious. It is about community. You see, Oliver's courageous endeavor is reshaping discussions, enabling countless individuals to view themselves and others with love, empathy, and hope.

Be Curious: It requires immense courage to learn something new, especially as an adult. Every time I witness Oliver's reading breakthroughs that open up new worlds for him, I am also transported to another world. As a writer, I find myself intently observing his lips, then closing my eyes to absorb the words. At the same time, I am rediscovering childhood books as he reads them aloud. His curiosity drives him forward, and I am connected through that curiosity to reconsider what I’ve read and learned before. He is a reminder that learning something novel is akin to forging a fresh universe. That is exactly what Oliver is doing for himself, his family, his community, and the world at large. His curiosity is unlocking a new world for all of us. It’s beautiful!

Be Courageous: In one of his early videos, Oliver invites viewers to witness his rage about his inability to read as an adult. His rage is directed at himself as well as a system that has failed him in numerous ways. As an educator and former academic, I understand the depth of that rage. As I watch him, I can see Oliver turning his rage into something more powerful—COURAGE. Through his courage, he ultimately chooses to embark on a new journey: teaching himself to read. His journey is his Power. That is what it means to Navigating Courage.

I hope to meet Oliver one day to simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you for showing the world what Navigating Courage looks like in real time. Thank you for showing what it means to truly embody your full humanity, and more importantly, for igniting a flame for others to follow. Your light is a remarkable illumination of courage for us all. #navigatingcourage.

To learn more, follow Oliver James.


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