One of my favorite books that I have read so far in 2018 has been “The Road To Character” by David Brooks. The opening paragraph presents an interesting topic that I have not considered previously:
“Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are the ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being — whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you’ve formed.”
It is easier, and more common in our culture today, to set goals that will move us towards having a stronger resume. The book does a great job of profiling folks who lived a life of character, which led itself to a stronger professional life. One such person was George Marshall, who may have built one of the strongest reputations I have read: “The general view (of Marshal) was summarized by CBS war correspondent Eric Sevareid: ‘a hulking, homely man of towering intellect, the memory of an unnatural genius, and the integrity of a Christian saint. The atmosphere of controlled power he exuded made one feel oneself a physical weakling, and his selfless devotion to duty (was) beyond all influences of public pressure or personal friendship….We are in the presence of a man who is telling the truth as he sees it, the thing that stands out in everybody’s recollection of General Marshall is the immensity of his integrity.’”
Now, we have already discussed how important integrity is on this blog. The thing about integrity and honesty is that the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. The opposite is true as well. Here is another passage from The Road To Character: “Small moral compromises on Monday make you more likely to commit other, bigger moral compromises on Tuesday. A person lies to himself and soon can no longer distinguish when he is lying to himself and when he isn’t. Another person is consumed by the sin of self-pity, and passion to be a righteous victim that devours everything around it as surely as anger or greed. People rarely commit the big sins out of the blue. They walk through a series of doors. They have an unchecked problem with anger. They have an unchecked problem with drinking or drugs. They have an unchecked problem of sympathy. Corruption breeds corruption. Sin is the punishment of sin.”
Along these same lines, the more we practice our eulogy virtues we seek to embody the easier it becomes. Ben Franklin had 13 virtues (see below) that he practiced; he dedicated one week for each virtue to focus on and reflect on how he did each evening. He noticed as the years went on that as he reflected in the evening he had less and less situations where he was in violation of the virtue. He attributes much of his external success to having these virtues in check. I believe that if we focus first on being a good person and focusing on our eulogy virtues, that the resume virtues and success will come right along with them.
Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues
- Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.