Quest for a Moral Life

Some people throughout their 30s and 40s are on a quest for individual success. It’s all about them. Many hit their 50s and 60s and seek rather to make a contribution to others, to their community, to a mission beyond themselves.

I noticed as far back as my university days that while some people were oriented toward service, most seemed to be in it for themselves. They had no empathy gene. Of course, I’m a Boomer, and we’re notorious for being the “Me Generation” as Time magazine nailed it back in the day.

David Brooks writes a column in The New York Times. He has a book coming out that I’ve read some excerpts–The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. He researched the observation I’ve had.

We start out as individualists trying to climb the mountain to success and fame. It’s all about us. Being better than everyone else.

Then something happens–a death, a brush with serious illness, an experience that shakes us out of ourselves. And we leave that first mountain and begin to climb the second one.

Then a banker quits and teaches elementary school. A lawyer goes on a mission trip to a destitute country and begins to devote time and expertise to helping the people there. A mother shaken by a child’s suicide becomes strong helping other mothers through the grief.

Bill Campbell, whom I discussed from the book Trillion Dollar Coach, was a successful Silicon Valley executive who coached many of the leading executives of his day–Steve Jobs and the Apple team, Eric Schmidt and the Google team, and more. He was never paid for the coaching. He was contributing back from the many blessings he had received.

When I was an adolescent, I thought moral people were those uptight, judgmental, hypocritical people whom I grew to detest. But actually, these people are far from the ideal.

Moral people have depth in experience and a desire to contribute seeking no glory for themselves. They offer not judgement, but help.

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