In today's culture of achievement, the drive for external success and attention is so fierce there's little time to cultivate inner depth. We're taught to be assertive, to master skills, to broadcast our brand, to get followers; we've become a self-preoccupied society.
Brooks separates two sorts of virtues, resume virtues and eulogy virtues. Resume virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace-wealth, fame, status and a great career. Eulogy virtues, the things people will say about you at your funeral, are driven by a spiritual urge not only to do good but to be good.
He argues that the central fallacy of modern life is that resume virtues can lead to true fulfillment. But it's only by cultivating eulogy virtues that we can get there and, unfortunately, we've lost the vocabulary and means to do this.
Citing an array of history's greatest thinkers and leaders-from St. Augustine and Dorothy Day to Dwight Eisenhower and Samuel Johnson-Brooks traces how they were able to face their weaknesses and transcend their flaws by embracing one simple but counterintuitive truth: in order to fulfill yourself, you must learn how to forget yourself.
Interweaving politics, spirituality, psychology, and confessional, The Road to Character urges us to confront the meaning of true fulfillment and proves that it is how we want to be remembered - and not what we put on our resumes - that truly matters.
David Brooks's column on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times started in September 2003. He has been a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly, and he is currently a commentator on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer." He is the author of "Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" and “On Paradise Drive : How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense,” both published by Simon & Schuster.