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In The Road to Character David Brooks, best-selling author of The Social Animal and New York Times columnist, explains why selflessness leads to greater success
You could say there are two kinds of virtues in the world, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your CV, the skills that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They're what get talked about at your funeral and they are usually the virtues that exist at the core of your being - whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful, what kind of relationships you formed over your lifetime.
In this urgent and soul-searching book, David Brooks explores the road to character. We live in a culture that encourages us to think about how to be wealthy and successful, but which leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the deepest inner life. We know that this deeper life matters, but it becomes subsumed by the day-to-day, and the deepest parts of who we are go unexplored and unstructured. The Road to Character connects us once again to an ancient moral tradition, a tradition that asks us to confront our own weaknesses and grow in response, rather than shallowly focus on our good points. It is a focus David Brooks believes all of us - including himself - need to reconnect with now.
Telling the stories of people through history who have exemplified the different activities that contribute to a deeper existence, Brooks uses the diverse lives of individuals such as George Eliot, Dwight Eisenhower and Augustine to explore traits such as self-mastery, dignity, vocation and love. He hopes that through considering their lives it will fire the longing we all have to be better, to find the path to character.
David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times and frequent broadcaster. His previous books include the bestsellers The Social Animal and Bobos in Paradise. His New York Times columns reach over 800,000 readers across the globe.
The road to exceptional character may be unpaved and a bit rocky, yet it is still worth the struggle. This is the basic thesis of Brooks's engrossing treatise on personal morality in today's materialistic, proud world. Brooks (The Social Animal) draws on the dichotomy in human nature proposed by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchick in his 1965 essay "The Lonely Man of Faith," which divides humanity between the external, social-based "Adam I," and internal, moral "Adam II." On this basis, he tackles sin, promiscuity, and the "central" vice of pride. He also formulates a "Humility Code" as a pathway to a secular type of holiness. Brooks puts forward exemplary figures who recognized their inner weaknesses and overcame those flaws through love of God, family, country, and vocation. They include governmental figures like Gen. George Marshall and President Dwight Eisenhower; Catholic social worker Dorothy Day; theologian St. Augustine; "humanist" writers George Eliot, Samuel Johnson, and Michel de Montaigne; and civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. Brook's poignant and at times quite humorous commentary on the importance of humility and virtue makes for a vital, uplifting read.