April 20, 2015

The Moral Bucket List

As someone who’s recently struggled with the pace of my work and where to focus my energy, I really related to David Brooks’ recent essay The Moral Bucket List:

But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

On passions:

Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

Yes! I’ve struggled with how to describe this feeling for a long time — this feeling that while it’s probably good advice to follow your passions, you may find more fulfillment following where you’re most needed. This essay is based on his new book The Road to Character, which I’m pretty excited to dive into here soon.

Pairs well with this fantastic answer on How can I be as great as Elon Musk? by his ex-wife, Justine:

These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage.

Do your priorities lean toward being as great as Elon Musk, or achieving a depth of character? I think it’s a good question to ask yourself, especially if you work in power-hungry environment like technology.