Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Road to Character

The Road to Character
by David Brooks

“Should I work to cultivate my resume virtues or my eulogy virtues”, writes NY Times author David Brooks in The Road to Character. I could argue that this is the book of the year, but it was written in 2015. Nonetheless, I think it is a book every person should read.  Not only does it provide rich historical perspectives on people worth emulating, but it also highlights the virtues every person should seek to embody through the way one lives their life.  Brooks chooses outside people, some well-known and some with lesser “brand name” recognition, to illustrate his points.  In each story, he provides context of how the person developed the character trait worth cultivating. The readers learns that these traits are grown out of habit and hard work in an effort to create an inner character that becomes a guiding force.  There are eight chapters following the biographies of people who overcame weaknesses in earlier life to become the esteemed person worthy of following at the end of their life.  The people include:  Frances Perkins, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dorothy Day, George Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, George Eliot, George Lewes, Augustine, Samuel Johnson, Michel de Montaigne, Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath.  He ends his book with a Humility Code, a proposition of 15 statements on how we should live – here are my favorites:

·         Live a life of purpose, righteousness and virtue

·         Remember we are flawed, so stop the selfishness and overconfidence

·         We do sin, but recognize it, feel ashamed of it, and then rectify it

·         Have an accurate assessment of your own nature and place in the cosmos

·         Pride blinds us to the reality of our blinded nature

·         No struggle is more real than inner campaign against our own deficiencies

·         Character is a set of dispositions, desires, and habits that are slowly engraved during the struggle against our own weakness

·         Character endures over the long term

·         No persona can achieve self-mastery on his or her own

·         We are ultimately saved by grace

·         Defeating weakness often means quieting the self

·         Wisdom starts with modesty

·         A good life is organized around a vocation

·         The best leader attempts to lead along the grain of human nature, not against it

·         The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich and famous, but that person will become mature

Such great lessons.  A book so worth reading, if nothing else for role models who we can try and learn from. Maybe next year’s speech at the end of the year will come.

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