Our culture prioritizes qualities like intelligence, expertise, advanced education, and a track record of illustrious accomplishments as being highly desirable differentiators that will put us on the map.
Yet the people who have the most profound impact on us as human beings are usually more accurately described by their depth of character and capacity for care rather than their pedigrees.
People who are deep have a deep impact on others.
So why then do we put a disproportionate amount of focus on developing resume virtues – qualifications that prove our abilities – rather than eulogy virtues – those aspects of our humanity that others will honor, celebrate, and remember us by when we’re gone.
As the author of the Road to Character in the following article aptly points out, the things we praise as professional success pinnacles are rarely the things we want to be memorialized by.
“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep 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. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.
But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys.”
What seems important, meaningful, and worth all the sacrifices suddenly can take on a lesser significance when we consider what we truly want to be known for when all the hustle and grind is over and done.
Eulogy virtues, conversely, last long beyond when the projects end, and the goal celebrations are forgotten.
It’s what people don’t forget about you…kindness, attentive listening, spreading happiness, acting in the best interests of others, giving generously of time and good advice, and so on.
Reflecting on eulogy virtues versus resume virtues is more than just an existential exercise for a later time when you have less on your professional plate. Or a touchy feely practice for “soft-skills” type of people.
Being a leader who is deep – and who puts in the internal character cultivation work to become so – is profitable for lots of practical, right-now benefits like:
- a deep person knows the difference between forgettable accomplishments and meaningful achievements
- a deep person is keenly in touch with themselves so they can more easily tune into others to understand what makes them tick, and can decode and diffuse difficult people situations
- a deep person works hard for the betterment of others and shows it, and gets crazy levels of performance, trust, loyalty, and commitment because of it
- a deep person builds profitable relationships through every interaction, big or small, hard or easy… because they’re thinking about how to help people not just get things done, all their exchanges build people into bigger, better versions of themselves and that pays off in bigger, better outcomes
- a deep person is unafraid to let people see and know the real them – which earns uncommon trust from others and helps them solve problems expertly like a surgeon because they go beyond superficiality into the belly of the real conversations that need to be had
- a deep person is grounded and realistic by putting in the self-awareness and social-awareness work so they’re more patient, explorative, and quick to give grace and much less prone to emotionality, stress reactivity, or blame-shifting (let’s call this maturity)
To get deep you have to go deep – into the uncomfortable places we often procrastinate thinking about by staying busy.
And yes, thankfully it is possible to have both professional prominence and personal significance, as long as you relentlessly prioritize your leadership character over chasing today’s results above all else.
If you sacrifice who you want to be on the altar of what you want to achieve you’ll be on the losing end in the long run.
Get deeper today by contemplating how you personally want to be remembered, and whether that aligns to how you’re actually showing up so you can make every day count towards a beautiful legacy.
To go deeper, click on the links below…
“At the end of the day, people aren’t going to remember you for your titles and roles, as important as those things are. They’re going to remember how you treated them, and your unique gifts to the world.
So then, how do you travel down “The Road to Character” as David Brooks calls it in his book? How do you cultivate eulogy virtues so that on that last day, you have no regrets?
Here are four practices to help you develop eulogy virtues.”
“But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.”