Shooting For Something Higher Than Happiness


We can shoot for something higher than happiness. We have a chance to take advantage of every day occasions to build virtue in ourselves and be of service to the world. - David Brooks, The Road To Character

I stumbled upon this book in Barnes and Noble a couple of years ago when I was going through severe disillusionment with religion and many modern day institutions. I was at a point in my life where I had a moral vocabulary but was uncertain of how to apply it in today’s world. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book, if I did I most likely would not have purchased it. But as I began reading the book I realized that the challenges I had faced were no excuse to not keep forging ahead in the development of my own character. I feel like this book has helped to equip me with some tools and ideas for how to translate the importance of personal character, values and a deep core even for those who don’t consider themselves to be religious or spiritual. The stories have reinvigorated and reminded me of the value that is found in the struggle.


Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. - Victor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning

These days it has become popular to point to the flaws in everyone except ourselves. Modern dating apps let us pick and choose from a buffet of interesting individuals. If we don’t like what we experience then we get a fresh plate and go back for something more exciting! These ideas have begun to seep into our other relationships. We surround ourself with people who are like-minded and don’t inconvenience ourselves with those who might challenge or disagree with us. All this tip-toeing around has left us spending more time trying to conceal our flaws than combat them. We don’t realize that a recognition of weakness, reveals a new opportunity for strength.

Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character but it certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. - John C. Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader


The about page states that the book looks to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, how through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations they built strong inner character. The book was written in 2015 but with what our nation is currently facing, now seems the perfect time to revisit it.

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. - Bernard Montgomery, British Field Marshal

When was that last time that you and your friends, co-workers, etc. discussed personal character? How often do we invite people and obstacles into our lives to push us towards personal growth? The individuals in this book faced incredible challenges, but it seems to me that they didn’t let themselves off of the hook because of inferior family or financial situations. So listen to what people around you are saying, or what they are not saying. What have you been trying to escape or distract yourself from that could actually strengthen your core?

We don’t get to pick our talents or IQ. But we do choose our character. In fact, we create it every time we make choices- to cop out or dig out of a hard situation, to bend the truth or stand under the weight of it, to take the easy money or to pay the price. As you live your life and make choices today, you are continuing to create your character. - John C. Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader

About the author of The Road To Character, David Brooks is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, as well as appears regularly on PBS NewsHour and Meet the Press.