My former client and lifetime friend, Larry Peck sparked my interest in the science of talent development. After a successful corporate career, Larry has now set a goal of being a Master shotgun marksman/expert. At the same time, Larry has encouraged my work in character building. Being a very competitive guy, Larry suggested I read The Talent Code. He later sent me The Little Book of Talent and most recently Every Shot Must Have A Purpose.
As a result of Larry’s prompting, my reading has become much more intense having focused on related books like: Deep Work, Will Power and The Power of Habit. Long ago the Jesuits planted in me, Aristotle’s “habit seed” …
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
My recent book, Restoring Character in America was laid on the foundation and life’s work of four… Continue reading
Let me take conscientiousness, one the key character traits in the chapter, How To Build Character. Within the world of personality psychology, the reigning expert on conscientiousness is Brent Robert, a professor at the University of Illinois. What intrigues Roberts is that conscientiousness predicts so many positive outcomes outside the workplace. Roberts says, “it would actually be nice if there were some negative things that went character along with conscientiousness. But at this point it’s emerging as one of the primary dimensions of successful functioning across the lifespan.
I would differ with Professor Roberts and argue there is a downside to most all character strengths and that they can indeed become character weaknesses. It is easy for me to see how conscientiousness can descend into compulsiveness.
I thought it odd that at no point in the chapter did the author mention Aristotle’s golden mean. Moral behavior is the … Continue reading
After reading scores of books in the character genre and speaking directly with many authors, I was motivated to initiate my own research and demonstrate what might be achieved from the bottom up involving laypeople like myself. I wondered whether a layperson could construct the questionnaire, convince a broad range of citizens to respond to the survey questions, and determine if the responses would be interesting and meaningful. I was especially curious whether those who took the character survey would confirm my suspicion that character greatness is not born but grown and can be developed. The reader can judge whether this exercise was worthwhile as the entire survey is at thecharacterbuildingproject.com.
Initially, I contacted fifty friends and colleagues I have known to be highly respected, many of whom I met during my advocacy career. Thirty of those invited agreed to participate in the survey. The occupations of these men… Continue reading
Having been educated in 18 plus years of orthodox Roman Catholic teaching (i.e. the Dominican Sisters, Irish Christian Brothers, Jesuits and later the Dominican Friars), it should not be surprising my interest in character development is based largely on the of works classical, (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero) biblical, (Job, Proverbs, Sirach) and scholastic (Augustine, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas) scholars.
Writing Character in America made me better appreciate the richness and excellence of character in our Greco, Judeo, Roman and Christian traditions. My views are based on the cultivation of the classical virtues of Western civilization. Some of the most insightful thinking about character is rather old. The cornerstone of my belief in building character in America is the argument that virtue is acquired in much the same way as other skills and abilities, through purposeful practice. Aristotle in a passage from his Nicomachean Ethics stated…
“And… Continue reading
The initial answers to the second question follow. For me the responses are helping me view character with a slightly different slant. I particularly like the quote: “It is easy to be moral in your sleep.” Some answers are more complex than others but all respondents seem to agree character skills can be practiced or exercised like a muscle in our body. How would you answer this question?
- Character is an abstraction; actions give it life. Moral character cannot be established or measured in a vacuum. As Aristotle said, “It is easy to be moral in your sleep.” Component skills to be practiced included introspection, a commitment to seek new information and perspectives; the capacity to think in a disciplined ethical manner and exercising the courage to ruthless seek out flaws and errors in one’s own actions and philosophies.
- Interesting question! Disciplined adherence to core values (assuming one’s core values… Continue reading
The following thought piece is a guest article by Michael G. Sabbeth, attorney, author, educator, lecturer and friend.
The challenge is as great or greater today than when faced by the cavemen: how do we raise children to do ‘good’ and instill values that will inspire them to be good their entire lives? Here’s how thoughtful adults can affirmatively influence the moral development, strength and behavior of children.
Several years ago I spoke to a men’s club at a local temple about how to cultivate culture of conversation with children. Children want to talk with their parents, I emphasized. They look to parents for guidance, for learning values, hopefully good values, and for affirmation about what is virtuous. Two weeks before my talk an elderly woman driving on icy Santa Fe Drive lost control and slid into the South Platte River. A few people stopped… Continue reading
Blog readers have asked why I choose to dedicate my web site to reflections on the need for developing good character, and they deserve an answer.
By sharing these reflections, it is hoped my own character will improve, perhaps others will be moved to acquire virtue, and finally, readers will be warned of the fearful consequences that ensue when a culture devalues acquiring good habits.
Each post is an opportunity to confront my own convictions, renew my gratitude for a blessed life, and perhaps, stir others to examine character in their own life. It is my aim to make these reflections enjoyable, useful, and, in some small way, transformative of our culture.
A focus on virtue is critical because the practice of good habits serve as an antidote to vice, a proven remedy for poor character. My reflections touch on scores of topics, such as: courage, duty, honor, humility, integrity,… Continue reading
Decades of statistics from a growing number of social scientists seem to concur that the collapse of the American community is due to such factors as:
- An increasing divorce rate
- Secularization of society resulting in a reduction in religiosity
- An increasing number of babies born out of wedlock
- Civic disengagement
- An increasing number of citizens opting for a welfare state
While our civic culture may appear to be wasting away unable to actualize the vision the Founding Fathers had for America, the trend need not continue. Americans might raise the collective bar of responsible citizenry by taking advice from our Founding Fathers.
Our Founding Fathers believed that citizens can be left free as individuals and as families to live their lives as they see fit; that they can come together to solve problems shared by the community; and that virtues like integrity, industriousness, responsibility and religiosity are bound up… Continue reading
From my days as a university student, later as an American history teacher in high school and throughout my career as a lobbyist in Washington, I have thought deeply about the idea of American Exceptionalism. Sadly the present administration has only given lip service to this idea but actually pledged to “change the face of America as we know it.” In my current vocation, I am dedicated to invoking the old norms of virtue, those that have made this country exceptional and uniquely blessed.
The “John Courtney Murray Jesuits” trained me to see the thread of Aristotle, Cicero, Boethius, St. Thomas Aquinas and other philosophers ideas extended to those propounded by America’s founding fathers. The Character Building Project web site was launched with the vision of connecting, in Cicero’s terms, “what it meant to live a good life” to the grand idea of American Exceptionalism.
Benjamin Franklin, John Adams,… Continue reading
In future posts I intend to explore a question raised by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics and what Cicero referred to as “the best armor of old age”; namely; what it means to live a life well lived.
My inquiry begins by asking the reader whether the following quote* is a code for males that should be communicated or whether in the more cynical readers view, the quote is merely a series of clichés.
“To be a man means that you are brave, loyal, and true. When you are in the wrong, you own up and take your punishment. You don’t take advantage of women. As a husband, you support and protect your wife. You are gracious in victory and a good sport in defeat. Your word is your bond. Your handshake is as good as your word.”
If the reader views the quote as a… Continue reading