They say that we grow wiser with age. What I believe to be the foundation of this truth is that as we age we mature and get humbled by life. This opens our minds and hearts to possibility and allows us to dig deeper in order to seek the wisdom necessary to grow and build true character.
In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks speaks to maturity as part of a larger group of virtues that make up what he calls the “Humility Code” to building strong inner character.He defines humility as the greatest virtue and says, “It reminds you that you are not the center of the universe, but you serve a larger order.”
About maturity, he says that it’s something that is earned and “not by being better than other people at something, but by being better than you used to be.”
At the beginning of the book, Brooks reflects upon the difference between resume and eulogy virtues:
The resume virtues are those that you would list on your resume. They are the skills that you bring to the workplace—those that contribute to your external success (e.g. curiosity, creativity, focus, and accomplishment).
The eulogy virtues are those that go far deeper. They are the ones that reflect your core essence—those that get talked about at your funeral that reflect your inner success (e.g. integrity, resilience, love, and family).
Brooks admits within the first few pages of his book, that he wrote it to “save his own soul.” He wrote that he felt as if he was “slipping into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity.”
My understanding is that he was on his own personal quest to find and live his eulogy virtues—to uncover the road to character.
Does it make sense that most of us have clearer strategies for how to achieve career success than we do for how to develop and sustain a strong inner character?
Perhaps it does. Given our fast-paced, disconnected, and chronically stressed lifestyle, it’s hard not to get caught up in the wrong success story—the story that measures success by external means—defining us merely by what we have and what we accomplish.
But as we age and mature and life unfolds, we oftentimes redefine our measures of success and happiness and come to deeper realizations about the truth of life.
One of Brook’s deeper realizations, which quickly became an intense frustration, was that the career-oriented side of our nature seems to get far more attention than the moral and character-oriented side.
And so he chose to study human nature and define what truly builds character in order to close the “humiliating gap” that often develops within us.
As we age and begin to explore the meaning of our lives and reflect upon our legacy, we tend to realize that a real legacy cannot be built on resume virtues alone. Knowing this, hopefully we can move into action to cultivate the right virtues in our lifetime and choose to live more consciously and on-purpose.
I agree with Brooks wholeheartedly. We do not have to live in the contradiction between these two groups of virtues. The two parts of our human nature need not compete with each other.
Consider this moving forward: Whatever your age, try nourishing both to create a kind of peaceful co-existence.
Would you be willing to close the gap between your outer, career-oriented virtues and your inner, character-oriented virtues—between the ambitious you who seeks to cultivate your strengths and the humble you who seeks to confront your weaknesses?
I say, let’s learn how to master the art of living a virtuous life by reconciling both natures in order to achieve a kind of work-life balance that is the true secret to wellness.
PS – My personal disclaimer: My only purpose in writing is to provide a message and sometimes an action plan. But from there, I surrender with no attachment to outcome—with no expectation or desire to fix or repair what is not mine to judge as in need of healing. My intention is always from a very pure and sincere place—to open minds and hearts towards a new perspective—to plant a seed which, I fully accept, may or may not get nurtured.
Thank you for taking the time to read my monthly blogs.