The challenge of being real…

“You cannot talk about grit—you have to embody it. You cannot talk about faith—you have to live it. You cannot talk about the desert—you have to cross it.”

Dr. Dragos Bratasanu

When I read this quote the very first thing that popped into my head was one of my favorite sayings of all times, “It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching” by St. Francis Assisi.  This is leadership by example in a nutshell.

Then I thought of how dissimilar this perspective is in today’s social media driven “look at me” culture. The comparison and envy that is created by showing “perfect” pictures of someones life.  Instead of “leadership by example” it creates “envy by example.” It is a focus on living life outwardly, based on what you want other people to think, as opposed to focusing inwardly on your personal values and the decisions that you make that aree manifested in action, not in words.  

Living a life of actions and behaviors that are 100% consistent with your words and beliefs is hard. I am very thankful to have a few incredible people in my life that will help hold me accountable when my words might outpace my actions or my choices.  We might not be able to talk about the desert, but we don’t have to cross it alone…

3 responses

  1. You’re getting me hooked on your blog Dusty!

    I bookmarked the below site a few weeks ago while looking for the derivation of the word “character.” In the below link, a reference is made to Warren Susman’s book Culture As History.

    “Cultural historian Warren Susman researched the rise and fall of the concept of character, tracing its prevalence in literature and the self-improvement manuals and guides popular in different eras. What he found is that the use of the term ‘character’ began in the 17th century and peaked in the 19th century. During the 1800s, ‘character was a key word in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,’ and men were spoken of as having strong or weak character, good or bad character, a great deal of character or no character at all. Young people were admonished to cultivate real character, high character, and noble character and told that character was the most priceless thing they could ever attain. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, however, Susman found that the ideal of character began to be replaced by that of personality.”

    As a culture, have we cheapened ourselves by trading ‘who we are when no one is looking’ for the oh so ostentatious: WHO WE ARE WHEN PEOPLE ARE LOOKING. Is it going too far to say, in the world of character, saints and philosophers were king, and in the world of personality, celebrities are king. From an employment perspective, there are hundreds of personality assessments, yet I’ve never once heard of a character assessment. Have I ever even Googled this myself? Is such a thing even possible?

    Now you’ve got me thinking…

    • Okay, this is really fascinating

      “The vision of self-sacrifice began to yield to that of self-realization,” he writes. “There was a fascination with the peculiarities of the self.” While advice manuals of the 19th century (and some of the early 20th as well), emphasized what a man really was and did, the new advice manuals concentrated on what others thought he was and did. In a culture of character, good conduct was thought to spring from a noble heart and mind; with this shift, perception trumped inner intent.”

      Thinking through this and some recent conversations I’ve had with some folks I work with regarding the fallacy of some “personality assessments” and the interpretation of those results and being indicative of “character” as opposed to situationally aligned behavioral tendencies.

      Hmmm, given a choice I would greatly prefer to work with someone of outstanding “character” versus a great “personality.” Character as defined as “Moral Discipline, Moral Attachment, & Moral Autonomy.”

      Thanks for sharing that link, absolutely fascinating!

  2. Good morning Dusty. I recently started listening to the audible The Road to Character by David Brooks. This morning I ran across Bill Gates’s notes, which I will now share excerpts from. The relevance to our thread is striking.

    A Question of Character: The Two Adams
    By Bill Gates | December 7, 2015

    I turned 60 at the end of October. Like a lot of people who reach that milestone, I got to thinking about the “résumé virtues” (the traits that drive external success) and the “eulogy virtues” (the qualities that lead to deeper meaning)—and finding the right balance between the two.

    My birthday was not the only reason I started thinking about these questions. I was also prompted by reading The Road to Character, the latest book by New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks sums up his aspiration for the book this way: “I’m hoping you and I will both emerge from the next nine chapters slightly different and slightly better.” It certainly was a stimulating read, and it got me thinking about my own motivations and limitations in new ways.

    The central metaphor of the book comes from the Book of Genesis. Borrowing from a rabbi named Joseph Soleveitchik, Brooks points out that Genesis contains two opposing depictions of Adam, which represent two different sides of human nature. “Adam I is the career-oriented, ambitious side of our nature,” Brooks writes. “He wants to have high status and win victories.” Adam II, in contrast, is more internally focused. “Adam II wants to have a serene inner character, a quiet but solid sense of right and wrong—not only to do good, but to be good.”

    Brooks fleshes out the Adam I/Adam II metaphor by offering profiles of a broad set of historical figures. Not all of them are paragons of virtue. But they are paragons of character.

    After finishing his chronicles of character, Brooks uses his final chapter to warn that American society has drifted out of balance. He’s not trying to scold us into renouncing our worldly ways and becoming modern-day Augustines. And he certainly doesn’t believe that our Adam I side is evil. Far from it. He’s a free-market Republican who knows our Adam I traits are essential for driving the creativity, innovation, risk taking, and job creation that have made America great. But he argues that many forces in our economic and cultural life—including our intensely competitive meritocracy and social media platforms that nudge us all to be self-promoters—have made it harder to hear the voice of Adam II.

    Brooks believes that this balance shift takes a psychic toll. “The central fallacy of modern life is the belief that accomplishments of the Adam I realm can produce deep satisfaction,” he writes. “Adam I’s desires are infinite and always leap out ahead of whatever has just been achieved. Only Adam II can experience deep satisfaction.”

    I like the way Brooks fleshes out the Adam I and Adam II sides of human nature, but it’s not always clear where one starts and the other stops. For example, you could argue that my work with Microsoft was a classic case of Adam I résumé-building. But I found deep satisfaction in that work—not because I achieved material success beyond my wildest expectations, but because I got to help build a great team and be part of a new industry that unleashed the potential of people all around the world.

    On the other hand, some might see my foundation work as based on eulogy virtues. But I would be lying if I said that I don’t also get a small boost of Adam I-type satisfaction when that work goes well.

    Even if the distinction between résumé and eulogy—Adam I and Adam II—isn’t always crystal-clear, I agree with Brooks that it’s useful to think about how to get the balance right. In a chapter entitled “The Summoned Self,” he suggests that the voice of Adam II gets louder when we ask “What are my circumstances calling me to do?” He quotes an even more powerful version of this question from the novelist Frederick Buechner: “At what points do my talents and deep gladness meet the world’s deep need?”

    I like that question a lot. It’s the kind of question we can ask any day, not just on those milestone birthdays. It can remind us to pay attention to our neighbors around the world. It can also help us hear the voice of Adam II.

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