Success comes with character

I had a sudden eureka moment today. I have realized that as you grow old in life your eureka moments become rarer and therefore if you have one at this age and stage it calls for some sort of celebration- and my writing of this post is manifestation of one such celebration which for any other time and event would have succumbed to my laziness and procrastination.

I have always believed in strength of character and admired it in people whenever I witnessed it, but several experiences in life and several seasons of ‘house of cards’ makes you a skeptic ☺ You begin to think that to be successful in life you need to be a little mean and manipulative and may be loosen up a bit on all those noble traits that Plato and Socrates vouched for.

Paul Tough in his book ‘How children succeed’ argues that to be successful in life you need, not just cognitive skills like IQ but a lot of non-cognitive skills too like grit, determination, resilience and strength of character. His philosophy is not based out of his whims but on some solid researches done in social sciences in the past couple of decades.

Character may mean different things to different people, therefore significant research went into this to define what really are those shared traits across all cultures and era and it was found that character comes out of the qualities like fairness, citizenship, wisdom, integrity, kindness, and gratitude.

Now I am a mother and whenever I found my kid too obsessed with fairness in a game with her friends, especially when it was not reciprocated, it worried me. It made me happy and sad at the same time; happy is obvious and sad because I felt how would she survive in this big bad unfair world where fairness is rarely rewarded. This made me ambivalent about character issues- a sort of believer in be-unfair- when- the- world- around- you-is-unfair philosophy.

After reading this book I realized that I was interpreting success too narrowly. Success is not just material success- whether you become the CEO/President or whether you could secure your next promotion by cutting a few corners here and there. To be successful is to lead a fulfilled and meaningful life. What good will it serve my kid if she becomes a CEO by compromising her character. Will the effects not spill over in other dimensions in life? What if she was a little dishonest and got that post, will she not be dishonest in her personal life too; what if she is constantly insecure about her position even after reaching the top post. Will her happiness be maximized?

You are most happy when you have happy relationships and a good character is the biggest guarantee to a happy relationship. Character is the biggest nourishment to any relationship- just be fair and kind to people and see how happily they reciprocate it.

My eureka moment was this. I threw all my self-doubts about character and its correlation with success in life. What matters most is to live a happy and fulfilled life and whatever success you get out of that will be your ‘natural rate of success’ (much like natural rate of growth of economies) and that is the right and sustainable amount of success that you need in life to be happy.