Imperfectionist Books Reflections

Your Eulogy Virtues

What is more important to you?  Your career or your character?

In his NY Times article, “The Moral Bucket List,” David Brooks discusses “résumé virtues,” those that apply to our external career: wealth, fame, and status and “eulogy virtues,” those that apply to our inner character: kindness, bravery, and love.

“We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light.


But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured…Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.”

David goes on to discuss a moral bucket list. He tells us that we live in a world of the ‘Big Me.’ A world where the number of likes that we’ve received in our last Facebook post is important. A world where we can’t talk about our weaknesses. In comparison, he states that those with a sense of inner-self have “achieved a profound humility…[and] other-centeredness.” They embrace their weaknesses and understand how to develop the deeper connections that they can reach out to in challenging times. They understand love. True love.

Most of us spend time to develop our externals. We go back to school. We pursue certifications.

But very few of us spend time to develop our inner values. Do you remember the last time you’ve worked on building your inner character? If you don’t, keep reading.

Even fewer of us have figured out how to connect our résumé virtues to our eulogy virtues so that they are in alignment. David calls this “the call within the call.” And those that are willing to take the call are willing to take stumbles in life:

“The stumbler scuffs through life, a little off balance. But the stumbler faces her imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty, with the opposite of squeamishness. Recognizing her limitations, the stumbler at least has a serious foe to overcome and transcend.


The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be. Unexpectedly, there are transcendent moments of deep tranquillity. For most of their lives their inner and outer ambitions are strong and in balance. But eventually, at moments of rare joy, career ambitions pause, the ego rests, the stumbler looks out at a picnic or dinner or a valley and is overwhelmed by a feeling of limitless gratitude, and an acceptance of the fact that life has treated her much better than she deserves.”

Are you willing to put your eulogy virtues and résumé virtues in alignment? Are you willing to stumble?

Consider exploring “Portraits of Fulfillment,” a series where we profile people who have fulfilling work that they love.

Read more about résumé virtues and eulogy virtues in David Brooks’ latest book, The Road to Character.


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1 Comment

  • Reply Will It Be On the Test? – The Imperfectionist June 19, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    […] harder at more things. I said yes to every opportunity that would build up what Brooks calls “resume virtues,” or those skills that contributed to my career growth. But I never thought to ask the question, […]

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