My sister - call her Lila - told me about a time where she had a peer review session at her university. Lila’s group had worked extremely hard for their assignment, and were anxious, but rather expectant to hear what their peers had to say about their work. They honestly believed that it could further the health of immigrant women - a topic they were sincerely passionate about.
The group of four walked up to the front of the lecture room, opened up their work for everyone to see and sat down waiting. Finally, the reviewing team began. “The first paragraph of your introduction is a bit odd. We didn’t like the tone you set.”
My sister’s group was shocked. What a negative tone their peers had set from the very beginning! Unfortunately it was exactly that: the beginning… Closer to a half hour the peers bashed their work, dissecting it into pieces they were displeased about.
A silence fell into the room… The four classmates felt a deep sense of disappointment. Suddenly a voice stood out filling the void. “I’m sorry for interrupting, but I have to speak out. I think your work is incredible.” My sister’s group felt so uplifted. So quickly that one comment relieved their misery. What a sense of fulfillment they felt for finally having their hard work recognized.
What surprised me was that Lila and her group decided that they didn’t want any other group to go through a bashing like they did. They decided to break that chain right then and there. The group they were to review next, had a lot to fix in their assignment. However, their decision stood: no matter how bad the work in review, they would do what is right. Lila’s group reviewed them with grace, even if constructively so. They acknowledged the good, and gently pointed out what they could improve on.
I thought this was just amazing. What would ever be the reason someone would be so kind and responsible, even after being treated so unjustly? One word: Character.
Character is what sustains you, when the manure hits the fan. Without character, things that come your way, such as hardship and injustice, will make you react in a way contrary to who you want to be. You will face challenges, but how you respond to them is what makes or breaks success.
Even with all the talent in the world, alone it is incomplete. It’s possible to achieve many wonderful things through talent, but to make talent-produced success fulfilling, its natural counterpart is required. That counterpart is character.
One quality of character is consistent deciding to take responsibility of your life regardless of your circumstances. In this case, the circumstances are different variables in our lives, some of which are the external pressures that can come in between you and your mission. The good news is that though we might not be able to change every circumstance, we are able to decide the perspective through which we look at things.
Most of character development is done alone somewhere where no one else can see. You willingly let go of entitlement and take on an attitude of humility and thanksgiving. The difference between entitlement and humility is that a spirit of entitlement says ‘I have the right to’, when a spirit of humility sees the world as full of opportunity. You decide to let go of the debt you feel the world owes you and figure out your fueling inner purpose.
Consistency in whatever it is you want to accomplish is very hard to build without character and an internal desire that outweighs external pressures. An internal desire such as the admiration of others or a high status within one’s family and friends is not a sustainable solution. When life gives its worst, a purpose limited to only oneself won’t be able to withstand the pressure. Sooner or later, life finds people with such motivations with an emptied tank.
Lila’s group faced great injustice in the way their work was evaluated, yet they still chose to do the right thing. I think the people who are most admired in life, are like Lila and her three friends. The best leaders and heroes show character similar to them. Stories like this are so encouraging, because they show us that with a strong character, doing the right thing - even when life feels unfair - is possible. I personally can’t wait to see what people like my sister and her three friends, will accomplish in life.
In the same way Einstein’s most famous formula E = mc² is one of the most foundational equations in the world of physics, so is the Formula of Fulfillment in life: Fulfillment = talent x character².
Add talent and character together and time and time again you’ll find yourself sitting at the fountain of fulfillment.
Sow character and what you reap is a bright future.