Stand for something

I had a conversation last week that astonished me.  I had it patiently explained to me that it was better to let kids endure aggressive teachers than to do something about it, because relationships with aggressive people are a fact of life and it was good for kids to learn to get used to it at a young age.

When I protested that we always have a choice, we can always do something about it, I was brushed away with the explanation that “perhaps I could do that, but that is not how it is for everyone else.”

The determination of my converser to herit her own unwillingness to stand up for herself to her children frightened me.

We are largely defined, as individuals, by what we believe in strongly, both the things we are passionate about doing and the things we are passionate about preventing.

Some of us are more passionate than others and there are two extremes:

One says, “tow the line”, “don’t make waves”, “keep your head down”.

The other says: “live life to the full”, “to thyself be true”, “playing small does not serve the world”.

The first is very much about conformity.  Pursuing this philosophy involves trying to be what you think other people want you to be and fitting in.  The second is about authenticity, figuring out who you truly are and tying to be true to it, without fear or compromise in all situations.

We choose our path in every action and interaction.  We may not do it consciously or deliberately, but how we respond to a situation is a choice, that we make, and that affects who we are.

There is of course a balance between having no opinion of our own and being a complete outsider who struggles to fit into anything.

The risk of over conformity as an individual is that we open ourselves up to abuse and mistreatment and a life that is “lead” by others.  The risk of over individuality is that we become isolated and detached.

The risk for those who demand conformity in others is that they loose diversity of opinion, they loose creativity and they create a mono-culture where people won’t tell them when things are going wrong.

The point here is not about the extremes, or even how we are, but that the choice is made deliberately and consciously, understanding the options that are available to us.  That we choose, in every moment, how much to align and how much to challenge, based on our authenticity.  Based on our vision/purpose, of where we seek to go with our lives and our values, which define how we prefer to be, in achieving our vision/purpose.

Step one of course is to know and be your vision/purpose and values.

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With love

nx

Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
neil@neilcrofts.com
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About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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3 Responses to Stand for something

  1. Fiona BJ says:

    Great post Neil. Interesting that the conformer was a woman …………..

  2. Standing up for your values has a cost. Not doing so has, sometimes, a higher cost: to lose yourself.
    When dealing with very hard confrontations it´s sometimes good to confront with a good plan, to confront with strategy.
    In my case I made the contribution of a pioneer, that is, I took a real nasty beating in the name of values. I became an example to follow and allerted others. However, my family and I paid the price.I didn´t have the choice to leave or to associate due to the nature of the confrontation.
    It was hard to pay the price but I have to say I am now sure that I would be the sort of person to hide victims from Hitler, and I like that thought very much.

  3. Steve Prior says:

    Hello Neil

    I think this is an interesting dynamic on the human condition.

    You may recall the problem I have with my children’s school. Out of the hundreds of children that attend the school only a few parents complained and only one set of parents (me and my wife) took the time and had the guts to write and make a formal complaint.

    Being a leader, a visionary or whatever you wish to call it is not the norm. In my case, one member of staff at the school admitted to a survival strategy of not questioning and not challenging the system. The risk (of losing their job) is just too high.

    For whatever reason, I’m not sure whether it’s nurture, nature or a combination I have always tended to challenge what I think are bad practices. The danger though is that one gets branded as a troublemaker or an outsider. So, like it or not you become an outsider just because you are not the norm.

    If I were to take a step back and observe evolution I suspect that there are rewards for being part of the crowd. The rewards for being a leader, visionary and who sees things differently is not as easy to observe.

    Sure, we have all heard of Steve Jobs, Gandhi and Mandela but I wonder how many people we haven’t heard about. People who stood by their principles and values and just don’t feature in our history. I suspect many of them lost their lives to a cause or went bankrupt trying to do something, never to be heard of again.

    Food for thought.

    Regards

    Steve

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