The Mystery Of Courage
The late Earl Nightingale was, for many years, the most listened to man on radio. His radio show, "Our Changing World" was broadcast on over 1,000 radio stations around the world. He researched and wrote every show himself. The man virtually devoured books. He was consumed with the idea of why so few people succeed in life and so many others do not.
I had the good fortune of working for a number of years with Earl. It was a tremendous learning experience, one I treasure more with each passing year.
We all admire the courageous person and quite often consider the individual who lacks courage, a coward. However, that is not how Earl Nightingale saw it. He said the opposite of courage was not cowardness, it was conformity. I believe the more you think about that, the more you will be inclined to agree with him.
Fear is a component of both, but it exists in greater amount in conformity. We perceive people won't like us if we dare to be different. But every new standard and every new stride starts by being different. Not different to be different, but following your own heart, following your own dreams and to look afar off and see a new thing. Courage is not a lack of fear, it is taking the first step in spite of fear. To learn to think different and to learn to act different, takes courage.
To share, when everyone around you is being selfish, to be kind, when everyone around you is acting snobbish, to be humble, when everyone around you is acting aloof; that first step takes courage.
It takes courage to break away from the crowd, to go your own way, to do the thing which may be unpopular. It takes courage to stand up for the person who is being unjustly criticized, rather than agreeing and going along with the crowd. It takes courage for the teenager to say no, when all the rest of the kids begin going down the wrong path. It takes courage for a Professor to challenge Peer Review. The list is endless.
Conformity is different from being a team player. A team player shares his/her talents with the rest of the team, for the good of the team. A team player contributes for the good of the team. Conformity goes along with group mentality, to keep from "rocking the boat". A team player is ever thinking and a conformist has seized to think, choosing instead, the rewards of Political/Social Correctness.
Earl Nightingale was correct - the opposite of courage is conforming. It is so easy to go along with the large group. We don't have to stand out or be different. It is easy to pretend to be in the "in" crowd by playing "Simon Says". But we all end up with strings manipulated by the puppeteer and our one chance in this short life to make a difference is lost.
The next time you are encouraged to fall into line, to be a sport, and everything in you says no - be courageous and go your own way. There are no new standards- no new trails in conformity. The choice is simple, follow the path or attempt to blaze a trail.
We are all guilty of conformity somewhat, just as we all have varying degrees of the shortfalls common to humanity. The great thing about life is, it is a process, not an event. We learn and grow, day by day and sometimes, moment by moment.