The SAT is one of the exams I took and then did nothing with. Preparing for it, though, was instructive. While I didn’t enjoy the Math so much, the verbal aspect always had me amazed at how versatile the English language is. There was a set of questions called ‘analogies’ and its purpose was to test both your vocabulary and ability to reason at the same time. You would see questions like this one:
Bold : Foolhardy
Law : Anarchy
Explode : Ignite
Anger : Rage
Erudite : Scholar
To tackle such questions, you had to first figure out the relationship between the first pair of words, and then use that to pick one of the next pairs of words whose relationship most closely resembled that of the first. In this example, ‘foolhardy’ is an extreme form of ‘bold’, and ‘rage’ is an extreme form of ‘anger’.
While I didn’t end up on a US college campus with this knowledge, it helped me to better navigate the campus of real life. This particular question, for example, helped me to see that too much of anything is truly bad.
Being bold is a good thing, and we all aspire to more boldness. But when we take our boldness too far, it becomes foolhardiness and that doesn’t do us any good. In fact, it almost always leads us to severe danger. The fine line between courage and stupidity is not always known and so a lot of people often cross that line in their noble quest to become their better selves.
Today, we’ll look at 3 instances where we could cross the line and drift from being bold into being foolhardy. The aim is to help us take these analogies and apply them to other areas of our lives.
From Protesting to Rioting
This is fresh on our minds, especially for those of us who consume the US news media. Protesting a perceived injustice is a bold and noble thing to do. But when chaos breaks out in the streets, the line has been crossed from protesting to rioting, and that puts lives in danger.
Let’s leave the streets now and go into our personal lives. It’s the same as crossing the line from being assertive to being aggressive. You may stand up for yourself at work, for example, and that’s a bold thing to do. You would be applauded for that. But if you get all cantankerous and standoffish with your colleagues, then you’re probably on your way out of that company.
We typically respond by moving from one extreme to another in dealing with problems in our lives. You may be tempted to hate all men because of what some men did or to become standoffish and uncooperative because you’ve been consistently taken advantage of. These are natural reactions, but they do us a disservice. We must rise above nature and instead use a measured response to turn away all anger.
From Taking Responsibility to Having too Much on Your Plate
Taking responsibility is a good trait that turns wimps into winners. It’s also a courageous thing to do because it’s easier to dodge all responsibility and lead a so-called free life. Yet, you move higher in life by assuming more responsibilities. While both shirking and taking on too much responsibility are foolish things to do, the latter is a different kind of foolish — it’s foolhardy.
We understand that you want to change your life and you want others to stop perceiving you as slothful. You want that promotion at work and you want to be more than a pew-warmer at church. However, you shouldn’t do so by stretching yourself too thin. It is no longer laudable when you don’t get to spend time with your family, or when you stop meeting deadlines at work because you have too much work to do, or when you have a nervous breakdown and yell at your pastor.
Taking too much responsibility is another form of crossing the bold:foolhardy line. To better ourselves, we may tend to overcompensate for our weaknesses. But knowing where to stop is important. Knowing what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, what your current capacity is, and how to coordinate them all together is a high mark of self-development.
From Ambition to Greed
Don’t you just love ambitious people? They’re very interesting to talk to – always beaming with zeal, enthusiasm, and new ideas! Their boldness to pursue their dreams can motivate you to pursue yours. It’s hard for a lady to reject a guy with ambition just like it’s hard for an employer to reject an applicant with such. But then, there are those kinds of ambitious people that everybody dislikes; the ones who are always after what they can get from you. Those who cut you off once they sense you’re of no more use to their never-ending ascent. Those who make everything a competition and seek to one-up you at every turn. Those who have allowed their ambition to so consume them that it’s no longer admirable but now obnoxious. They have crossed the fine line from ambition to greed. They’ve gone from being bold in their pursuit to being foolhardy.
The funny thing is that once you reach this point of greed, you’re probably at the peak of your ambitious pursuit. You can only go downhill from there. It’s the point of selfishness and pride, which usually come before a nasty fall. While it may seem like a thrill to let your ambition consume and drive you to a seemingly endless pursuit, bear in mind that you may have already reached a premature end of said pursuit, and are on your way down to a crashing fall.
Boldness is good and courage is contagious. A bold step taken in one area of life leads to more bold steps in other areas, and since we’re always leading in life — either leading ourselves or leading others — it’s an important leadership trait to acquire. But we could overdo it by moving from one extreme of being wimpy, gliding past boldness, and then getting to the other extreme of being foolhardy. From over-sheltering ourselves to being exposed to too much danger. That’s being foolish.
I recently learned that these types of analogy questions are no longer being asked in the SAT. They were removed two years after I took mine for being too tricky and were replaced with more straightforward kind of questions. This was in response to some criticism that they were irrelevant to success in a college or work environment. I don’t know how that’s working for college students today. Perhaps, this explains the lines being crossed right now from protesting to rioting. Anyway, I am glad that I was able to glean such an important life lesson from them. A lesson that has served to give me a more balanced perspective to life, helped me to see the wisdom in aspiring to virtues such as boldness, and the foolishness in taking them to the extreme.