Churchill on Change: Be Like Water

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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Published by The Philosophical Fighter

I love being on a mat. I've trained in Karate, Kickboxing, Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and Sumo. I currently teach Jiu Jitsu and Judo at Redemption Martial Arts Academy in Tifton, Georgia. I also love to read, write, and philosophize about life.

7 thoughts on “Churchill on Change: Be Like Water

  1. Great post. Big Churchill fan myself. Someone who is comfortable admitting they were wrong/changing their mind seems a rare quality nowadays.

    1. You are so right about that. Neil Postman wrote, “Because we are imperfect souls, our knowledge is imperfect. The history of learning is an adventure in overcoming our errors. There is no sin in being wrong. The sin is in our unwillingness to examine our own beliefs, and in believing that our authorities cannot be wrong.” I wholeheartedly believe he was correct.

  2. An inspiring message and most relevant to my own life experience. Used content from Churchill’s life to complement my radio program during my student years at university. Also read one of Bruce Lee’s books around that time and implemented some of his techniques into my workouts.

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