Orrin Woodward on LIFE & Leadership

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    Former Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

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Courage and Humility

Posted by Orrin Woodward on October 20, 2012

Rarely in our pagan past does one find courage and humility used to describe the same person; however, G.K. Chesterton explains how true Christianity marries the two seemingly paradoxical terms together within believers. In today’s dumbed-down culture, reading Chesterton can stretch a person’s thinking, not to mention his vocabulary. 🙂 Still, I encourage everyone to sift through Chesterton’s thoughts and wrestle with the ramifications of the Christian faith for leadership in society today. The greatest leaders are humble and courageous. How? Because they know their cause is bigger than themselves and their own personal needs. (See RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions for LIFE for more on purpose.) The bigger the purpose then, the less about self it is. For those who would change the external world must first change their internal mindset. The LIFE business cannot transform the world until the members have transformed themselves. This is the ultimate assignment. Here is the close of Chesterton’s article.


Orrin Woodward

I have not spoken of another aspect of the discovery of humility as a psychological necessity, because it is more commonly insisted on, and is in itself more obvious. But it is equally clear that humility is a permanent necessity as a condition of effort and self-examination. It is one of the deadly fallacies of Jingo politics that a nation is stronger for despising other nations. As a matter of fact, the strongest nations are those, like Prussia or Japan, which began from very mean beginnings, but have not been too proud to sit at the feet of the foreigner and learn everything from him. Almost every obvious and direct victory has been the victory of the plagiarist. This is, indeed, only a very paltry by-product of humility, but it is a product of humility, and, therefore, it is successful. Prussia had no Christian humility in its internal arrangements; hence its internal arrangements were miserable. But it had enough Christian humility slavishly to copy France (even down to Frederick the Great’s poetry), and that which it had the humility to copy it had ultimately the honour to conquer. The case of the Japanese is even more obvious; their only Christian and their only beautiful quality is that they have humbled themselves to be exalted. All this aspect of humility, however, as connected with the matter of effort and striving for a standard set above us, I dismiss as having been sufficiently pointed out by almost all idealistic writers.

It may be worth while, however, to point out the interesting disparity in the matter of humility between the modern notion of the strong man and the actual records of strong men. Carlyle objected to the statement that no man could be a hero to his valet. Every sympathy can be extended towards him in the matter if he merely or mainly meant that the phrase was a disparagement of hero-worship. Hero-worship is certainly a generous and human impulse; the hero maybe faulty, but the worship can hardly be. It may be that no man would be a hero to his valet. But any man would be a valet to his hero. But in truth both the proverb itself and Carlyle’s stricture upon it ignore the most essential matter at issue. The ultimate psychological truth is not that no man is a hero to his valet. The ultimate psychological truth, the foundation of Christianity, is that no man is a hero to himself. Cromwell, according to Carlyle, was a strong man. According to Cromwell, he was a weak one.

The weak point in the whole of Carlyle’s case for aristocracy lies, indeed, in his most celebrated phrase. Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men. But the essential point of it is merely this, that whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men. All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired. And this doctrine does away altogether with Carlyle’s pathetic belief (or any one else’s pathetic belief) in “the wise few.” There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob. Every oligarchy is merely a knot of men in the street—that is to say, it is very jolly, but not infallible. And no oligarchies in the world’s history have ever come off so badly in practical affairs as the very proud oligarchies—the oligarchy of Poland, the oligarchy of Venice. And the armies that have most swiftly and suddenly broken their enemies in pieces have been the religious armies—the Moslem Armies, for instance, or the Puritan Armies. And a religious army may, by its nature, be defined as an army in which every man is taught not to exalt but to abase himself.

Many modern Englishmen talk of themselves as the sturdy descendants of their sturdy Puritan fathers. As a fact, they would run away from a cow. If you asked one of their Puritan fathers, if you asked Bunyan, for instance, whether he was sturdy, he would have answered, with tears, that he was as weak as water. And because of this he would have borne tortures. And this virtue of humility, while being practical enough to win battles, will always be paradoxical enough to puzzle pedants. It is at one with the virtue of charity in this respect. Every generous person will admit that the one kind of sin which charity should cover is the sin which is inexcusable. And every generous person will equally agree that the one kind of pride which is wholly damnable is the pride of the man who has something to be proud of. The pride which, proportionally speaking, does not hurt the character, is the pride in things which reflect no credit on the person at all. Thus it does a man no harm to be proud of his country, and comparatively little harm to be proud of his remote ancestors. It does him more harm to be proud of having made money, because in that he has a little more reason for pride. It does him more harm still to be proud of what is nobler than money—intellect. And it does him most harm of all to value himself for the most valuable thing on earth—goodness. The man who is proud of what is really creditable to him is the Pharisee, the man whom Christ Himself could not forbear to strike.

My objection to Mr. Lowes Dickinson and the reassertors of the pagan ideal is, then, this. I accuse them of ignoring definite human discoveries in the moral world, discoveries as definite, though not as material, as the discovery of the circulation of the blood. We cannot go back to an ideal of reason and sanity. For mankind has discovered that reason does not lead to sanity. We cannot go back to an ideal of pride and enjoyment. For mankind has discovered that pride does not lead to enjoyment. I do not know by what extraordinary mental accident modern writers so constantly connect the idea of progress with the idea of independent thinking. Progress is obviously the antithesis of independent thinking. For under independent or individualistic thinking, every man starts at the beginning, and goes, in all probability, just as far as his father before him. But if there really be anything of the nature of progress, it must mean, above all things, the careful study and assumption of the whole of the past. I accuse Mr. Lowes Dickinson and his school of reaction in the only real sense. If he likes, let him ignore these great historic mysteries–the mystery of charity, the mystery of chivalry, the mystery of faith. If he likes, let him ignore the plough or the printing-press. But if we do revive and pursue the pagan ideal of a simple and rational self-completion we shall end–where Paganism ended. I do not mean that we shall end in destruction. I mean that we shall end in Christianity.

15 Responses to “Courage and Humility”

  1. Vanessa Johanning said

    Oligarchy 1] is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people.
    Had to look that one up! 🙂
    Closer to home:
    I can relate this to my christian children… I am so proud of them…but I am still humble that they turned out so fantastic …! (all in my Lords plan) I will read this over a second time. It’s pretty deep! . Thanks for sharing!

    • Matt Mielke said

      Vanessa, I agree your children are fantastic! I am reflecting on Chesterton’s comment,
      “I do not know by what extraordinary mental accident modern writers so constantly connect the idea of progress with the idea of independent thinking. Progress is obviously the antithesis of independent thinking. For under independent or individualistic thinking, every man starts at the beginning, and goes, in all probability, just as far as his father before him. But if there really be anything of the nature of progress, it must mean, above all things, the careful study and assumption of the whole of the past.”

      Oliver Demille described how we need “independent thinkers” and not credentialists to move, or “progress,” our society forward. Perhaps a better term would be “historical plagiarist” instead of independent thinker.

      • Orrin Woodward said

        Matt, Yes, I think in Chesterton’s usage independent thinker is novelty outside God’s laws rather than creation within the historical context of human nature. Probably the best statement that sums this idea of novelty is ripping up all fence line because has a better idea, where an historical creator would say, “Never remove a fence line until you learn why it was put there in the first place.” Many novelties and “independent thinkers” were actually ignorant of history and human nature and have left a trail of destruction in their wake. thanks, Orrin

  2. Chris VanDevere said

    Thank you Orrin for this enlightenment. In my undergraduate studies the professors would exclaim upon reading some great work “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” A more familiar expression is the common sense realization that a turtle on the top of a fence post did not arrive there of his own means.

    It is only through humility that we understand the position in which we have been placed. And it is only through courage that we map the new vistas available from such a position. We must realize that, if faithful to our cause, we may become the shoulders upon which the next generation may stand.

  3. jimmy varghese said

    Humility is the most important characteristic of a leader. Serve first and then you will be served. Close friends of mine reminded me of this last night when I expressed my distaste in contacting mny family due to the negativity I recieve from them. Such a hard trait to master when I’m so used to being prideful. Thanks orrin for the great article!

  4. Steven Johnson said

    “We shall end in Christianity.” Score for our Lord and Savior! We are led straight back to Him.

  5. Kevin Hamm said


    You are right, that article did rock. 🙂 I think of the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 12 saying that “in regard to himself, he would not boast, except in regard to his weaknesses.” In our weakness, Christ is proclaimed victorious. So much could be said, but it is not my blog but yours 🙂 Thanks for finding the article, you are living my dream of scholarship. The library is built in my mind. Now to hit the goals!

  6. Maura Galliani said

    Thank you, Orrin, for posting quality information, articles, and videos that stretch my thinking. The only way this “dumbed down culture” can be saved is for our community to serve the masses, one person at a time. What I’m being exposed to through Team LIFE is a self-directed education that will turn me into the kind of leader that can leave a legacy of change for the good. Fired up!

  7. The discussion of pride and money hits home. This is truly a struggle among many. Keeping up with the Joneses.,. My thoughts, as I tried to decide how important material things are to me were: when The Lord blesses me with these things I dream of enjoying with my family, the true test will be how I would react if I lost them in a fire?? Or if they were stolen. That may be, from my small perspective… The true test of a mans pride.
    If I were to get lost in any competition of the “Joneses” I would like to be remembered as the man who served more than anyone else!!! Then my question would be… Where is the pride in that?

  8. Peggi Kern said

    This is a challenging article, but I love the quote “Almost every obvious and direct victory has been the victory of the plagiarist. This is, indeed, only a very paltry by-product of humility, but it is a product of humility, and, therefore, it is successful.” The humility to be teachable, by learning from the victories and failures of others, leads to true success. Learning from those who have the success we want, then do what they did, is also the victory of the plagiarist.

  9. Kim Decker said

    This was a very deep and interesting article that all people need to read and think about. Without Christianity in our lives we have nothing, NO HOPE and no LIFE. I am learning this and not only spread joy but am learning how to teach others to get HOPE back in their life by letting the LORD back into their hearts. Thank you again for another great message.

  10. Trevor Long said

    If G. K. Chesterton had a more robust view of totally depravity maybe man’s non learning from history would seem more natural. I liked G. K.’s comments on independent thinking. As we develop the mind of Christ dependent on the Spirit of God and the Truth of God which necessitates humility we then can learn properly from HIS-story where we don’t end in destruction but end where we started from the Christian world/life view.

  11. John Hatchell said

    I struggle with the balance, You have added a portion of my understanding. Thank you.

  12. Victor said

    This is a very thought-provoking piece. Thanks for sharing this, Orrin.

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