The Road To Character – David Brooks

Here are my comments on the book:

How does one develop their character? David Brooks, American conservative political and cultural commentator who writes for the New York Times, states that it starts with a willingness to change, effort, and humility. Through continual improvement, one can develop themselves to live a more fulfilling life of love, joy, and happiness. Here are some of the points to the book:


1) One of the key phases to learning anything faster that shouldn’t be missed is the reflection phase. Reflecting gives you a chance to mentally simulate a passed event that you personally thought either went well or could have been better. By reflecting on these moments, it better solidifies your understanding of why something played out the way it did. Reflecting on mistakes is crucial to increasing your chances that it doesn’t happen again. This is exactly why the Navy SEALS do some sort of debriefing after their mission so they can see what has worked and what didn’t to improve for future missions. I have a friend who spends a few moments in bed at night reviewing the mistakes of his day. His central sin, from which many of his other sins branch out, is a certain hardness of heart. He’s a busy guy with many people making demands on his time. Sometimes he is not fully present for people who are asking his advice or revealing some vulnerability. Sometimes he is more interested in making a good impression than in listening to other people in depth. Maybe he spent more time at a meeting thinking about how he might seem impressive than about what others were actually saying. Maybe he flattered people too unctuously. Each night, he catalogs the errors. He tallies his recurring core sins and the other mistakes that might have branched off from them. Then he develops strategies for how he might do better tomorrow. Tomorrow he’ll try to look differently at people, pause more before people. He’ll put care above prestige, the higher thing above the lower thing. We all have a moral responsibility to be more moral every day, and he will struggle to inch ahead each day in this most important sphere. People who live this way believe that character is not innate or automatic. You have to build it with effort and artistry. You can’t be the good person you want to be unless you wage this campaign. You won’t even achieve enduring external success unless you build a solid moral core. If you don’t have some inner integrity, eventually your Watergate, your scandal, your betrayal, will happen.


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2) Bill Cosby has once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Stay true to who you are and your nature. Don’t let others get into your mind commanding you on what you should do. You know yourself best and follow your inner gut. Living a life of pleasing others is no way to live as you’ll constantly be tuned into what others say about you. Tune out of the channel on what others say about you and tune in to your inner voice’s channel. Today, commencement speakers tell graduates to follow their passion, to trust their feelings, to reflect and find their purpose in life. The assumption behind these cliches is that when you are figuring out how to lead your life, the most important answers are found deep inside yourself. When you are young and just setting out into adulthood, you should, by this way of thinking, sit down and take some time to discover yourself, to define what is really important to you, what your priorities are, what arouses your deepest passions. You should ask certain questions: What is the purpose of my life? What do I want from life? What are the things that I truly value, that are not done just to please or impress the people around me? By this way of thinking, life can be organized like a business plan. First you take an inventory of your gifts and passions. Then you set goals and come up with some metrics to organize your progress towards those goals. Then you map out a strategy to achieve your purpose, which will help you distinguish those things that move you toward your goals from those things that seem urgent but are really just distractions. If you define a realistic purpose early on and execute your strategy flexibly, you will wind up leading a purposeful life. You will have achieved self-determination, of the sort captured in the oft-quoted lines from William Ernest Henley’s poem ‘Invictus’: ‘I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.’


3) Want to start making a difference today but feel like you can’t contribute enough to make it meaningful? That’s alright, just start small; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just remember that every tree started from a small seed. When talking to others interested in donating to charity but don’t, I’ve noticed that their number one response when I ask them why they don’t donate is because they don’t have enough to give and they feel that a few dollars isn’t big enough for them to make a difference. Regardless of the size of your contribution, you’re still making a difference. Day insisted on being radical, to get down to the roots of social problems. The paper was Catholic, but she embraced a philosophy of personalism, which is an affirmation of the dignity of each person, created in the image of God. Being a personalist, Day had a suspicion of bigness, whether it was big government or big corporations. Day even had a suspicion of big philanthropy. She was constantly urging her co-workers to ‘stay small’: Start your work from where you live, with the small concrete needs right around you. Help ease tension in your workplace. Help feed the person right in front of you. Personalism holds that we each have a deep personal obligation to live simply, to look after the needs of our brothers and sisters, and to share in the happiness and misery they are suffering. The personalist brings his whole person to serve another whole person. This can only be done by means of intimate contact within small communities.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


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  1. fitforever21

    Awesome video! I’ve never heard of this book thanks for the synopsis! How long have you been doing book reviews?


    1. Thanks for the awesome feedback! I’ve been doing this for about 9 months or so.


      1. fitforever21

        Sweet! I found you on the Facebook group world entrepreneurs! Good stuff! Keep it up! I will most definitely keep an eye out for more of your stuff!


      2. Thanks! I really appreciate it! I enjoy writing up these posts as much as my audience enjoys reading them!


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