Emerson wants young people to become self-reliant in the sense of looking inward into their hearts and souls to find their paths in life. He mentions nonconformity so much because he knows that young people will be under intense pressure from their families, society, and tradition to conform to expectations. Conformity, he understands, is the great enemy of following one's destiny. Nonconformity is the courage of our convictions.
Emerson is trying to create a space in which young people can feel encouraged to risk following an unconventional path, which is why he mentions nonconformity so often. He cites such figures as Jesus and Galileo to show how much more a nonconformist can contribute to society than someone who slavishly follows its rules. He urges his listeners to believe in themselves and to be willing to forge their own way, even if their parents disapprove or they are ridiculed by society. Too often, Emerson argues, people like Galileo, who was ridiculed for saying the earth revolves around the sun, are proven right.
As a Transcendentalist, Emerson accepts the assumption that a divine force is at work in the universe, speaking directly to our souls if we can only shake off social expectations and listen to that inner voice. It will direct us to our higher calling, he says, if we trust it. Following this calling is the only way to find true personal fulfillment and the best way to serve society.