Read: The Road to Character by David Brooks

There’s an overarching theme that led me to purchasing this book … it’s the distinction between “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues.”

As explained on the book’s dust jacket:

“Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “resume virtues” — achieving wealth, fame, and status — and “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.


  • Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.
  • “Thankfulness,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey said, “is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”
  • The inner struggle against one’s own weaknesses is the central drama of life.
  • Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in the weak places.
  • British writer Henry Fairlie: “If we acknowledge that our inclination to sin is part of our natures, and that we will never wholly eradicate it, there is at least something for us to do in our lives that will not in the end seem just futile and absurd.”
  • [Some] had to go down to go up. They had to descend into the valley of humility to climb to the heights of character.
  • The ultimate joys are moral joys.
  • Don’t ask: What do I want from life. Ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do?
  • “Inner Hold” — a rigorous control of one’s inner state, a disciplined defense of one’s own integrity.
  • A well-lived life involves throwing oneself into struggle…those who pursue struggle end up being happier than those who pursue pleasure.
  • Humility is the greatest of virtues. Is you can’t learn it, God will teach it to you by humiliation.
  • Sin is a necessary part of our mental furniture, because without it, the whole method of character building dissolves. People develop character by struggling against their internal sins.
  • Practice a gratuitous exercise of self-discipline every day. If you act well, eventually you will be good. Change your behavior and eventually you will rewire your brain.
  • Dwight Eisenhower [diary note]: “Anger cannot win. It cannot even think clearly.”
  • General Fox Conner: “Always take your job seriously. Never take yourself seriously.”
  • [Re: Moderation] Fueled by passion…policed by self control.
  • [Re: Moderation] A life organized not around self-expression, but self constraint.
  • [Re: Moderation] The best moderate is blessed with a spirited soul and also the proper character to tame it.
  • [Re: Suffering] Most people shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.
  • Richard Winn Livingstone: “One is apt to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal.”
  • Holiness isn’t in the next world but is embedded in a mundane thing like a marriage, which ties one down but gives one concrete and daily opportunities for self sacrifice and service.
  • [Augustine] Say no to one set of desires and pleasures and rise to a higher set of joys and pleasures.
  • Only God has the power to orient your desires and reshape your emotions, not you.
  • The humble person understands that experience is a better teacher than pure reason.
  • Each struggle leaves a residue. A person who has gone through these struggles seems more substantial and deep.

Read reviews or buy this book on Amazon

Disclaimer: These Reading Notes are not a replacement for reading the book — just a sampling of my personal notes (copyright to the author), and potentially out of context as well.


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