Back to Basics

David Brooks’ ROAD TO CHARACTER is one of my favorite books I have ever read. If you are interested in history and committed to learning from the lives of others, I cannot recommend this book more highly. Add it to your list.

Here is one of many quotes from that book that bounced off the page and into my life.

“Manners are the pre-requisite to every other virtue.”

Put another way, your character will never expand further than your ability to treat others with respect, dignity, and civility.

The power of this statement is rooted in its truth. As driven individuals, we invest ourselves in chasing lofty ideals like commitment, creativity, loyalty, integrity, identity, and leadership. Certainly, these are worthwhile pursuits. But, what good are they if, in our chase, we forget to say thank you? I’m coming to learn that there is a very fine line between self improvement and selfish improvement.

I have to constantly remind myself that the constant improvement of self can be reckless if not driven by a genuine desire to serve others. And it’s really hard to serve if you don’t commit to the daily discipline of treating people as you wish to be treated.

Saying thank you, cleaning up your trash, holding the door open, shaking a hand, smiling as you say hello, and standing for someone to take your seat may seem like trivial niceties. BUT, they represent a valuable, irrefutable, and often overlooked truth.


Don’t run the race so fast that you cross the finish line alone. Do the small but powerful things necessary to show people they matter and you care. In the pursuit of purpose, don’t forget to be polite.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. // Matthew 22:37


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