Michael J. Kerrigan


One of the more influential readers of my posts recently stated, “There have been many effective leaders of relatively low character, and high character people who were not effective leaders.” He also stated “ Leadership as I see it, comprises a set of skills that can be learned at most any time.”

In my view, character can also be learned but slowly and carefully. I subscribe to teachers of the distant pass, such as Aristotle and Plato who taught that, whether teaching leadership or character, it is a long, hard and broadly based process.

One of America’s preeminent management consulting companies takes a slightly different view, as Accenture believes, ”leadership does not require formal authority or personal charisma and that every person has the capacity to lead effectively with integrity and that this capacity can be developed over time through discipline practice.”*

I was pleased that the Accenture Leadership… Continue reading


If readers of the character building project are serious about exploring an excellent answer to this question, I heartily suggest reading the above-cited article from Big Questions online. https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/2015/02/17/good-character-caught-taught/

If you do not have the time read the article, the quote below will offer “cliff notes.”

Some people believe that nature makes people good, others say that it is habit, and still others say that it is teaching. Experience shows that logical arguments and teaching are not effective in most cases. The soul of the student must first have been conditioned by good habits just as land must be cultivated to nurture seed…. Aristotle

I intend to further investigate the source, namely the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre focusing on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. It promotes a moral concept… Continue reading

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

In about 180 pages General Jim Anderson and his West Point graduate son have crafted a practical leadership manual based the Aristotelean model but supported in clear drills on how to build one’s own character(see pages 28&29.) Just like Aristotle’s model, the Andersons book is designed with the idea the more we speak about making wise choices, the more likely we are to act in that way.In brief our habits form our character. The forward to Becoming a Leader of Character, written by no less than Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski (the number one in all time coaching victories in NCAA Men’s basketball) shares the Anderson treatise and foretells the “practice drills that form our Habits of Character.”and those that the Andersons’ lay out; namely; “Our character is in our own control. We build it, sustain it or destroy it based on our choices. The choices we make daily prepare us… 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.

kidsethicsbooksidebar2 The Drunk 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

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