The Easiest Recipe for Building a Great Character

“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are to some extent a gift, whether by birth or through intentional duplication, with some intentional variations. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece by thought, choice, courage, and determination.” –John Luther

Who can question the integrity of such crucial ingredients in the making of good character? Thought, choice, courage, and determination might sound simple when taken individually. The real, standalone value of each one of these character-building traits can only be known once we use discretion, away from other pulling demands on our time and resources.

In my personal experience, a moment of tranquility has the power to teach us more than what one could learn after a year in the most exceptional university in the world. It gives us a chance for introspection, an honest self-analysis of our life, on the whole, our growth cycle, our wishes, interests, success and failures, relationships and differences of opinion with others, and so on and so forth.

In other words, such tranquil moments could be the moment of truth, the moment of revelation, and the moment of confrontation with our inner self. Such hard-earned tranquility can help us realign our core values and beliefs, our philosophy of life, as well as help us identify our shortcomings on various frontiers that kept us from realizing our dreams.

What can be a better word for all the possible actions and initiatives that we could take, given a moment of tranquility than THOUGHT?

Once we learn how to mold our thought-process, next in line comes choice. It reminds me of a maxim I learned a long time ago: “A person’s true character is revealed by what he does when no one is watching.” Unfortunately, I do not recollect the name of the author. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the significance of choices in our image-building initiatives.

If you want to get a glimpse into a person’s real character, one must also know his/her individual choices. More often than not, we have observed a relatively large number of individuals enjoying a very high public profile fall short when it comes to their personal lives.

So many soothsayers, supposedly gifted ‘saints’ (abundant examples exist in India and elsewhere,) and leaders have been caught ‘with their pants down’ when they least expected to be exposed in public. This scourge is not limited to the confines of developing countries alone. Media is full of such stories from around the world.

To have a good moral character, we must diligently practice great, exemplary ethical behavior under all circumstances. We can only do this by maintaining a perfect balance between our thoughts and choices, in addition to other essential inputs.

Charles Erwin Wilson, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1953 to 1957 under President Eisenhower said: “A good boss makes his men realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could.”

P.B. Fitzwater, the 20th-Century American theologian, was of the opinion that “Character is the sum and total of a person’s choices.” I believe he was on the mark in his observation. What do you think?

In the matter of choice, we may never overlook the wisdom of Wayne Dyer, the late 20th-Century American philosopher, and a motivational speaker, evident in this quote: “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” No wonder lack of motivation brings nothing but misery in its wake.

Courage is often confused with the physical prowess of an individual. We consider our soldiers to be the most courageous of all, and I have no intention to steal the thunder from their remarkable display of courage to the extent of laying down their lives in the service of their motherland. However, a brilliant show of heroism comes to the fore when we tackle tough situations and life-threatening challenges in the ordinary course of our day. Stories abound of the rare genius of NYPD in the face of 9/11 tragedy.

Jean Paul Richter, the late 19th, and early 20th-Century German art historian drew such an excellent picture of courage in the following words: “A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterward.”

People of character never get perturbed by tough decisions and even more stringent situations as they possess the skills to navigate through the worst storms with ease. Both their analytical power and decision-making skills enable them to take a stand when the timid waver. They do not let fear touch them during the execution process, unlike cowards.

Sir Philip Sidney, the late 16th-Century English poet, courtier, scholar, and soldier was of the opinion that “A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage.”

I am confident the discerning readers would be able to recollect situations from their own lives to support this assertion. You must have either witnessed or come to learn of a job gone out of hands for want of someone courageous enough to act judiciously at the right time.

Would you be happy to identify someone devoid of courage in the face of difficulty as a ‘Man of Character?’ I don’t think so!

According to Anthony Robbins, “Determination is the wake-up call to the human will.” At the same time, let us also keep in mind what Og Mandino felt about determination: “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” He became an inductee of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame. Og’s books have sold over 50 million copies and translated into more than twenty-five different languages.

Those keen on developing a character of reliability, courage, leadership, and a balanced approach toward life are never scared of hard work, sweat, and determination. They take challenges for breakfast, turmoil for lunch, and the impossible for dinner by making things possible. No wonder, Colin Powell, the American Statesman, and a retired four-star general in the U.S. Army went on record with one of his bold statements: “A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”

How many of us remember the remarkable statement, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand” from one of the Presidents that this great country had the privilege of having as its leader? None other than Harry S. Truman, the 33rd U.S. President made this exclamation. He succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, yet another great leader.

Please allow me to add one last quote that gives us a far more profound insight into the methodology for success. It comes from one of the most remarkable race car drivers with the highest number of achievements to his credit. His name is Mario Andretti.

Although born in Italy, Mario chose American citizenship and went on to break all possible records with his hard-earned skills and personality traits. His philosophy of life: “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”

Once we start to pay heed to the cumulative wisdom shared through the above quotes, there shall not be much room left for dilly-dallying in your resolve to build an outstandingly strong character.

You must have gathered enough information, initiative, as well as motivation to launch your journey to the heights of your dreams. Now is the time for you to make each one come true with the same unrelenting pursuit as that displayed by the above achievers.


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