“Oh God,” Nancy pouted into the phone, “you’re not going to Asia again, are you?”
I had just mentioned to my mother (Nancy), a book I recently finished, The Road to Character. The book, written by author David Brooks, examines the different measures of success, eventually working to address what is real and what is lasting. That kind of success (the real and the lasting) is predicated by virtue and principle, identified as part of “eulogy” virtues—opposed to “resume” virtues. Character, not finance or fame, is success. I love that. That’s what I told Nancy. She assumed again I was leaving my job to meditate and eat rice and sit in a Korean forest.
“No, mom, I’m not going to Asia. I just wanted to tell you about a commitment I’m trying to make to living in greater virtue. I’m sorry. I’m still employed utilizing my company matched 401k and I’m still trying to find a girlfriend.”
Success, as subjective as the term should be, seems to have taken on a pretty set benchmark. Modern society and aggressive capitalism make it so that without power or fortune, success isn’t yours. Success is measured as something on monetary or hierarchical grounds. “Resume” virtues, traits and qualities that lead to vocational advancement, are a big reason why this is so.
That’s also very aggressive of me to say.
I’m not, and would not, shit on those who work hard. I wanna make bank too, bro. I just think other things, like character and selflessness, are more important. When placed in more paramount value, I believe they are what success needs most.
I’m not poor.
Or a communist.
In a nice little organic connection, I was reading a book called Thrive a few days after finishing The Road to Character. I didn’t mention this one to Nancy, as it’s not difficult to gauge how she feels about Arianna Huffington (author) or the Huffington Post (author’s company) or liberals (people she hates), but I jumped at the connection that occurred immediately in the introduction. Ms. Arianna mentioned eulogy virtues, and then expounded.
At a funeral you will never hear
“The crowning achievement of his life was when he made Senior Vice President.”
“Her power point presentations were always meticulously prepared.”
“he was such a Fortnite savage, homies’ competitors would exit a game just knowing he was in a match.”
I made up the last one, but you get what she was trying to say.
Eulogies celebrate life and they honor the way in which people lived. They lament the loss of one’s presence, not their position at work. Even coworkers, who know best the finance and career story of the deceased, never mention any of that. They talk about the smile they remember in the office, and the respect they exhibited. They remark upon a call to compassion, and a kind spirit. Or, if the dude worked in a pre-HR era, they reminisce about the sick, but hysterical, shit he/she did to the interns. All of that. It’s what is remembered, and it is what matters.
Success is found in the life you live and the impact you make. It is so subjective because that path is different for every person. There is no one right, set way. Power and fortune may be one man’s aim, but undoubtedly it is not for most.
Huffington, nearing the end of her introductory chapter of Thrive, implored the reader to “write their eulogy now.” I read that and stopped—equal parts because I loved it so much, equal parts because I spilled a little of my herbal, organic, fair-trade, non-GMO, conflict-free green tea. I took a minute to reflect.
As part of my personal definition of success I believe that processing and relating what I learn, for the betterment of others, is a huge piece to the puzzle. It is one of the way’s I want to be remembered. Thinking about my eulogy—in a non-morbid way—is an aspect of my life that I want remembered. Living that, doing things in line with that legacy, is success. By virtue of selflessness, and communal cognizance, I aim to meet my success.
(Before my unborn son, Atticus Didier, delivers my eulogy, I want a slide show of only Vegas and New Orleans party pics unleashed. Nothing else. Just so people know.)
So, ask yourself what success is to you? What encapsulates who you are, who you want to be, and how you want to be remembered? Answers those questions, with character in mind, and then live that life.
Live your eulogy now.