I am a sucker for biographies of Winston Churchill. I can’t explain it, but his life is an amazing story to me. I don’t know whether it’s his resolve in the face of danger or his startling wit that I’m drawn to, but Churchill ranks at the top of my list of interesting people.
One of the things that I love about him is that he was not afraid to change his mind or his politics. He would change his mind if new information presented itself, and he changed his politics when his party ceased being faithful to his idea of good government. He once said at a speech in 1952, “…it is better to be both right and consistent. But if you have to choose—you must choose to be right.”
Churchill, in many ways, embodied Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assertion that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (On Self-Reliance). Some critics may call this vacillation Machiavellian or opportunistic. That is possible, but Churchill held his resolve even as the world around him changed. In that regard, he stayed true to himself.
Willingness to change or admit you are wrong is a characteristic of intelligence. Foolishly holding to an assumption indicates a myopic and limited worldview. Walt Whitman conceded that it was perfectly okay to challenge one’s own way of thinking. He wrote,
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
In the martial arts community, we often think that we either can’t change or won’t because we were taught a certain way or because we have done a technique a certain way throughout our career.
As Bruce Lee advocated, it’s better to be malleable, able to bend when needed, like water. Whether we are looking at our martial arts system or some other previously held notion, be willing to change if more information comes along. Be ready to ask questions, investigate why a system is the way it is, and seek your own path. This is your journey. Don’t be afraid to go “off script.” We are all making it up as we go.
Photo: United Nations Information Office, New York, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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