(Originally posted November 24, 2017)
In a previous Learning Principles module on Peak Performance, I reflected on a particular essay by Op-Ed columnist and author David Brooks adapted from his book The Road to Character. Brooks has this fascination with individuals who have found a way to share their inner light with the world. He decided to have this experience as well, and so began his discovery into the concept of character.
According to Brooks, there are two types of virtues people can choose from: resume virtues or eulogy virtues. Resume virtues are the skills or value you can add. They are what individuals bring to the corporate table. Eulogy virtues are the ideal things spoken about you after you depart this life. Initially I took eulogy virtues to mean the gift or legacy you leave others upon your departure. Brooks infers that we are included in one of these two sets of virtues. I am inclined to disagree.
What if I am someone in a transition? What if I want to choose from both virtues? People are not automatically assigned to resume virtues if they don't appear to have any eulogy virtues. We can not know all of a person's story. Where they came from and what they have been through, or even what they chose for themselves after all is said and done. Similarly, it is not fair to assume that those who appear to hold stronger resume virtues do not have any eulogy virtues or vice versa. The road to character Brooks illustrates is paved with freewill.
If the rising cultural or societal norm promotes more self-centered, materialistic, and individualistic behaviors in us, then one could argue that there is at least a third set of virtues Brooks has overlooked. Eulogy virtues might trump resume virtues, but what if there is a group of seekers who fall into a whole other camp? Whereas eulogy virtues are those one wants others to highlight on their behalf after a life well lived and resume virtues enumerate those value adding skills an individual brings to the table, a third virtue values those seeking direction who are in a time of discovery or development.
Third virtue individuals might struggle with choosing from the original two virtues created by Brooks. Perhaps they transitioned out of one virtue due to a life change and do not yet align with the other. It could be argued that resume virtues start at one end of a continuum and eventually manifest into eulogy virtues, but this was probably not Brooks’ intention. He aimed to show where peoples’ concerns lay: to progress in career matters or in those matters of the soul.
While these descriptions are based on Brooks’ perspective of college students in The Road to Character, he brings to light the fact that students’ capacity to understand what they want out of their adult or working life is limited. These are younger individuals who embrace contemporary behaviors and practices to such a degree that they become defined in a way by what objects and experiences they seek. It takes time before they learn the stumblers’ philosophy as Brooks coins. Therefore, Brooks’ two virtues needs a sister, a patron saint for those who are just not there yet. The divergent, the lost, the second-chancers, and perhaps me.
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Unless noted otherwise, all content copyright 2017-2020 by Tanya Wineland.