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I think greatness is something you do, not something you are

I'm really lucky to have the friends I have. (Well, luck doesn't exist, but I'm very... blessed/fortunate/something...)

My friend Brendon and I correspond pretty regularly, keep each other on track with goals/projects, share ideas, share science papers/books. He taught me how to play Go and how to sysadmin a Linux box, and we've had lots of great chats about business, philosophy, martial arts, combat, science, learning, winning, lots of stuff. I told him my book is almost done and though isn't imperfect in some ways, it's close enough, I'm going to finish it up, and that'll free me to work on my next book, on art, on business and entrepreneurship, etc. I could re-write this sucker 3 or 4 times over the next 10 years and it'd get better each time, or I could write a book or two per year and each book I'd improve in skill. I'm going the latter route.

Still, I'm nervous and uneasy over this to some extent, actually to a very large extent, and I'm not too shy to say that. Bren wrote this to me in an email:

Incredibly exciting. Given your commitment to keep writing, I think pushing it out is a great move. The victory of achieving that will be tremendously inspiring, and you can start to get your ideas in front of people to see how they react with no further delay. Enjoy the push across the finish line. You're a great man with a great mind full of great ideas. You will do great good, which will be greatly rewarded, as greatness is all too rare a gift in this world. You will achieve great scorn, which will be promptly forgotten, as there are far too many things for a Hater to Hate in this world.

First, man, I'm so fortunate to have such great friends. Thanks, man. Intellectually I understand most of what you write, but doing it in the real world is something else entirely. Thank you for the encouragement, you couldn't possibly know how valuable it is to me and how even a few words like that help make me stronger and keep me going

Goodness in our Eyes

On On the Side of the Good

It seems we can’t go a day without seeing or hearing what surprising thing Pope Francis has done. We can’t get enough of his smile—he smiles with his eyes, doesn’t he? Maybe it’s because he pays his own way, and doesn’t wear fancy shoes that we find him so charming. Maybe it’s because he sneaks out in disguise in the middle of the night to feed the poor. Is it, instead, that in him we see an example of Humility missing in a culture that made “selfie” the word of the year?

No matter our political beliefs, religions, or lack thereof, we often hear about “VALUES.” Defending our values, standing up for our values, protecting our values are all phrases that get ramped up in election years. But who can really aptly define Values? They tend to be relative to our situation in life, much like the value of the stock market, different from one day to the next.

Perhaps what we see in people like Pope Francis are examples of Virtues— ideas of moral excellence put into practice. Honesty, Integrity, Tolerance, Justice, Peace, Courage, Humility, Compassion, Generosity, the list continues, are all fixed, apolitical, non-denominational principles that strengthen the Side of the Good.

Thinkers from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin to Thoreau and beyond have recycled the importance of Virtue as a step in the direction of greatness. But to be on the side of the Good, we don’t have to achieve perfection, nor greatness. Instead, maybe we look within and find which of these Virtues is lacking in our own lives? Which are most important for our children to learn? Maybe we need a bit of Francis’ Humility? Perhaps we need Courage. I always need that. Maybe our children need to work on Integrity, Tolerance, or Grit?

It’s certainly not easy, and we won’t be perfect. But we can find a comfortable balance that strengthens the Good. And as we take these steps in growing the Good, in growing our hearts, maybe we, too, will find ourselves smiling with our eyes.

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