I am a massive fan of #Frank Sonnenberg. I love his approach, his thinking and his content, and I would highly recommend following him through social media.
A year or so ago, he published a piece called “Moral Character is the DNA of Success and Happiness”, which resonated with me greatly.
In today’s post, I want to explore his thinking, offering my interpretation. I am prompted in this by a marvellous conversation yesterday with a close friend and colleague here in North East England. My thanks to him, as ever, for his curiosity and thirst for understanding.
The Components of Your Moral Character
In his post, Frank identified four parts to Moral Character. These were Life Purpose, Beliefs and Values, Character and Actions.
I lay out my thinking on these four elements below, with inspiration from Mark Twain.
Have you ever considered why you are alive? I have reflected on it often over the years. That is why I have always liked the Mark Twain quote below.
[Tweet “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain”]
Interestingly, my life purpose, as I define it, has remained pretty constant throughout my life beyond my teen years. I wanted and still want to help people and make a difference in their lives, their families and their communities. I am driven by a notion of social justice and have always had a passionIt is a goal or ambition that many people would also choose.
However, I am equally sure that many people do not give it a thought, better yet decide what it is. They move through life doing rather than being, and consequently, do not develop themselves in a way which makes a greater impact.
In short, what is the legacy you wish to leave behind you? How would you care to be remembered? What impact will a life lived well have on those who you encountered?
Beliefs and Values
Many people hold me in high regard. I know this from very regular feedback I receive from them, both directly face-to-face and via social media and other channels.
A surprise phone call on Tuesday evening this week from someone who I have not seen face-to-face since 2009 brought this home to me. Paul rang me to catch up, while on his way to work. He had noted, from following my social media strands that I had a busy year and wanted to see how I was.
We have corresponded by email and postings on and off over the years but only talked on a couple of occasions. I met him in 2009 when I facilitated a leadership development programme he attended. We struck up a strong rapport, and that has continued, albeit at a distance. He lives in Derbyshire and works in Nottinghamshire, many miles from my home in Sunderland.
It was a delightful conversation and made my day. Paul’s words were very kind and strongly complimentary. They reminded me that what drew Paul to me so powerfully were my beliefs and values, as lived each and every day. He experienced that directly, though many years before. He saw them enacted in my social media postings and they resonated once again in our telephone conversation.
I cherish my beliefs and values and stay true to them. I live them, express them, refresh them and share them. In other words, I am the best me I can be, and I strive to improve day by day. I am not perfect though I do see progress 64 years on! I am also still learning.
So, have you considered your beliefs and values deeply? Do you live them as well as espouse them? Do you look for continuous improvement?
[Tweet “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. ~ Mark Twain”]
Your character moves beyond your beliefs and values. It describes your mental and moral qualities, exhibited by your attitudes and your behaviour.
Many people ‘talk the talk’ but they do not ‘walk the walk’. You will have heard this said many times. In my experience, I have seen hundreds of people who could do the former, but not the latter. Why? Merely because they lacked the moral courage, the character to carry through, to follow through and to see an action to its ultimate conclusion.
Here’s something I observe more and more. People are afraid to have awkward or difficult conversations. They shy away from potential conflict? They say Yes when they should say No. They allow themselves to be led, rather than lead. And then they whine, groan, and complain under their breath, privately or to like-minded individuals.
What do they lack? Character. More often, however, it is because they did not create the time to discover who they truly are, what that means and how to utilise it in the most productive way they can. So, take time out, meditate, think, seek support to aid your thinking, and rediscover yourself. You will be amazed at what you see and astonished by what that will do for you!
[Tweet “A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation. ~ Mark Twain”]
I have a close friend called Cynthia Bazin. She lives in California, and we have only ever met once face to face, in October 2016 in Las Vegas. I have known her virtually for years. Besides being a great friend, Cynthia is my personal accountability buddy, fellow co-author, and mentor to many, and she is extraordinarily good at that.
One of her favourite sayings is, “Take freakin’ action!” It is powerful and resonates greatly here because all of your thinking, soul-searching, self-awareness raising and so on amounts to nought if you don’t do something with it!
So, Frank’s final element is the one for me that rounds this whole post off. I can be who I am, live my values and beliefs, be laser focused on my purpose, but it does not amount to anything if I don’t act!
[Tweet “The secret of getting started is breaking your overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. ~Mark Twain”]
What does this mean for you?
So, take what you are, what you have and what you can share and give it, unstintingly, with love, with energy, with enthusiasm, with humour and with passion. The more you do, the more you will receive in return! Like my story about Paul this may come tomorrow, next week, or eight years later. Though to be fair to Paul it has been bubbling along for many years now.
The issue raised here is I know myself; I try to portray that in my interactions with others, and I have done this consistently for many years while trying to improve a little each day. Paul highlighted that consistency by this comment from his follow-up email written to me the day after our call. He said, “I really enjoyed our conversation yesterday on the phone, it’s always very uplifting talking to you! You made my day too!” I very much appreciate his kindness and delight in the connection we share, even after all these years.
I also firmly believe it is because I understand what makes up my moral character, which is truly the DNA of my happiness and success. Frank’s model remains my bedrock, and I strongly recommend it to you. Think about it, decide upon your position and then take action.
So, how about you? What are you going to do now?
I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching your leadership practice, building your happiness or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +447958765972.
I am always happy to listen and ready to help.
Thank you for reading.