343236871_weakness_xlargeListening to an interview of author David Brooks provided some interesting insight:

“I achieved way more career success than I’d ever imagined, and I rediscovered the elemental truth: It doesn’t make you happy. And then I would come across people once a month who just — they just glowed. I remember I was up in Frederick, Md., visiting some people who tutor immigrants; they teach them English and how to read. And I walk in a room — 30 people, mostly women, probably 50 to 80 years old — and they just radiated a generosity of spirit, they radiated a patience and most of all they radiated gratitude for life. And I remember thinking: ‘You know, I’ve achieved career success in life, but I haven’t achieved that. What they have is that inner light that I do not have. And I’ve only got one life — I’d like to at least figure out how to get there.’ And so I really wrote the book to save my soul, if you want to put it grandly, to figure out: How can I be more like that? And writing a book doesn’t get you there, but it at least gives you a road map.”

To some extent, I concur.

I don’t remember the exact commercial, but I will paraphrase, “At 30, I thought about making my first million; At 40, I thought about owning the company; now I ‘m wondering how to get around this track in less than 40 seconds.”

In truth, my career success was different than imagined. I used to think I of having a great career, but I never imagined myself a millionaire. I never thought I would own a company let alone a race car. Thus, neither came to fruition. Like the people Brooks met in Frederick, MD., I did teach English as a second language but never got that inner light.

We all think we’re super important.  Children are told how great they are. They aren’t. We aren’t. But what I’ve learned is that the road to character is built by confronting your own weakness. It is he who conquers his own soul that becomes greater than one who takes a city. The road to success means understanding personal weakness.

This key lesson begins with the process of opening one’s mind to the possibility that one does not know what one thought they knew – that one may not really understand what one thought they really understood.

Poet David Whyte wrote:

We, both as a culture and as individuals, often conflate it with the deceptively similar-sounding yet profoundly different notion of “work/life balance” — a concept rather disheartening upon closer inspection. It implies, after all, that we must counter the downside — that which we must endure in order to make a living — with the upside — that which we long to do in order to feel alive. It implies allocating half of our waking hours to something we begrudge while anxiously awaiting the other half to arrive so we can live already. What a woefully shortchanging way to exist — lest we forget, so speaks Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

There’s much left to do to become better every day.