There’s a story I told at the end of a gathering of the first term of students from the Benjamin School for Character Education in South Korea. This is the story of how a cow defeated a tiger.
Long ago, there were tigers in the mountains of Korea. A farmer had a cow and was going over the mountain when he came across a tiger. So the cow was shaking with fear and the farmer was shaking with fear. But if the farmer ran away because he was scared, that cow would have been tiger food, 100%.
People are like that, too—if they see someone strong, they feel afraid. But if someone strong hurts her children, does a mother run away? There’s something peculiar about our brain. When you have a really big sense of righteousness and justice, there is no fear. If somebody threatens only you, then you could apologize and try to avoid conflict. But say your family is endangered, then it’s a different story.
This cow was an intelligent creature. Even the cow had the instinct to protect her owner. So the owner didn’t abandon her, and he gave her a rub and said, “Hey, you’re strong. You’ve got two horns, and you’re plenty strong, too. You weigh more, and you can win. You can win. You’re strong.” He was right there by her side, cheering her on.
For the tiger, a cow that’s running away is very simple to handle. Why? It’s so easy to get up on its butt from behind. The tiger gets on top and bites the neck. The tiger’s teeth are so strong that once you get a bite in, it’s over. But a cow that’s facing you head on has those horns sticking out. So climbing up on top is a daunting task. So this darn cow was supposed to be fleeing for her life, but instead of running away, there she was, stubbornly holding her ground.
So then, instead of biting confidently, the tiger did a sloppy job of trying to bite her, and when the tiger was climbing on top of her head, the cow felt like she might die anyway so she headbutted him as hard as she could. Since the cow was angry during this head butt, you can imagine how hard she must have done it. The tiger couldn’t even get his teeth in and was struck with the full force of the cow’s neck, so his body went flying. And when a cow is fast, they’re incredibly fast. She kept hitting the tiger without giving him a chance to hit the ground.
The whole time, the cow’s owner was encouraging the cow, saying, “You’re strong.” The owner was cheering the cow on like crazy, and after she kept hitting the tiger for a while, he was completely knocked out.
That cow is like us.
It’s about having faith in yourself, believing in yourself. When you believe, your brain becomes better. When you praise and compliment yourself, and encourage yourself and tell yourself that you can do it, that’s when you find strength. If you say things like, "There’s no hope for me," then there won’t be a reason for you to use your strength.
So the farmer took the cow to the village. He was concerned that the tiger might be alive, but wasn’t able to bring it with him. As he led the cow, he kept saying, “You did great. You’re amazing.” When he arrived at the village, he said the cow had defeated a tiger. When the villagers went to see, they found that there actually was a dead tiger there.
This is the way to use your brain.
You probably have this kind of memory about yourself: I usually have all these problems; I have these shortcomings. You have to throw out that negative information quickly. There are so many people who say something doesn’t work without even trying it.
Instead, you have to praise and compliment yourself. Giving praise eliminates the negative information that’s in your brain. After that, act.
If all she does every day is plow and farm, then a cow doesn’t know how powerful her horns are. However, once she’s tried the head butt, she knows. Likewise, you have the ability to discover your innate strengths when you do something you've never done before if you keep giving yourself praise and compliments.