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The Road to Character - by David Brooks

Here's a few ideas extracted from David Brooks' book "The Road to Character" (2015).

    1. Qualities - distinguish between CV (résumé ) qualities and Eulogy qualities

    • Distinguish between
    o CV (résumé ) Qualities – external
    o Eulogy – internal
    • Develop our eulogy qualities first
    • Success can result in greatest failure – pride
    • Failure can result in greatest success – humility
    • Moral improvements happen best when we associate with people that we admire, and whose behaviour we imitate
    • It’s the small details of our life that matter
    • Respond softly to a harsh challenge
    • Be silent when unfairly abused
    • Be restrained when provoked
    • Don’t be boastful or self-righteous

    2. The shift - from grateful to entitled

    The Shift
    • The “narcist epidemic”
    • We’ve gone from
    o No one is better than me, and I am no better than anyone else
    • To
    o Look at me, I’m special
    • Humility leads to wisdom
    • Wisdom is not knowledge, it is a quality
    • Character must be built; we’re not born with it
    • Self-respect = making and keeping commitments to myself and to others
    • Worldly success of fame, wealth, etc is not satisfying

    3. Self-Conquest - Eisenhower

    Self-conquest - Eisenhower
    • The ability to ward off slothfulness and self-indulgence
    • Disciplined hard work is better than a brilliant mind
    • Hatred is futile – it harms only the person who holds it
    • The battle I fight is against myself –
    o My laziness
    o My pride
    o My self-pity
    o My Vanity
    o My boastfulness
    o My folly
    o My cowardice
    • Self-control – a muscle that we can develop
    • Eisenhower overcame his fearsome anger: anger cannot win; it cannot even think clearly
    • Eisenhower - avoid the temptation of living only for today, and plundering our resources for tomorrow

    • Character is the main object of education
    • Humility is the greatest virtue
    • It’s fair to ask: what do I want from life, but I must also ask: what can life expect from me? To be an upright man
    • Little acts of self-discipline guard against self-indulgence and self-glorification

    4. Self-mastery - General George Marshall

    • Do everything right. “Sweat the small stuff”. No slips, no compromise
    • Be persistent in doing small things well
    • Succeeded through hard work and self-discipline
    • How we do the smallest thing is how we do everything

    5. Dignity – A. Philip Randolph

    • Lived a life of civility, humility, decency, and dignity
    • It is impossible to humiliate a man of dignity
    • Strict non-violence – “prayer protests”
    • March to Washington – 1963
    o Orderly but not subservient
    o Proud but not arrogant
    o Non-violent but not timid

    6. The Humility Code

    • Seek holiness, not happiness – life is a moral drama, not a hedonistic one. There is no satisfaction in all the trappings of success, without a sound moral foundation
    • Recognise our true state – I am flawed. I tell lies. I am a coward. I am prone to laziness and selfishness. I am self-centred and believe that the world revolves about me. I believe that I am somehow special and unique and better than anyone else. I exaggerate my skills and abilities and rationalise and excuse my mistakes and follies. I over-estimate my strengths and I give in to short term desires
    • But despite our flaws, we do aspire to goodness
    • Humility is an accurate assessment of our nature and place in the world. I am not special and not one of a kind. Nothing special happened the day that I was born
    • Pride is the worst vice. It blinds me to my true state. It makes me think more highly of myself; it deludes me into thinking that I am in control. It closes my mind to improvement; it makes me cruel; it makes me compete with others to prove that I am better.
    • Once the necessities of life have been met, the key battle is spiritual and moral; the battle is for virtue over vice.
    • Character is the result of inner confrontation – I become more disciplined, considerate, and loving through thousands of small acts
    • Short-term desires lead us astray
    • The struggle against weakness requires self-effacement, reticence, modesty, and obedience
    • Wisdom – knowing how to behave when information is incomplete

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