Character Capital: What Traits Do You Want to Hand Down?
Trevor Harris | August 26 2020
While the word “inheritance” makes tangible assets (like money and real estate) come to mind, it is often the intangible assets that surface first when impacting the next generation.
Trust, honor, commitment, and integrity are some of the many traits that define one’s character, and they trickle down to our family, friends, and work associates well before anything we physically pass down. But how can we knowingly pass these traits down in such a way that those we love have an opportunity to treasure these same values?
When I was in middle school, my father asked me to clean the pool. After cleaning the steps and walls, I skimmed the pool to get all of the leaves. Knowingly, the bottom of the pool had not been brushed, but I had barely noticed a difference in quality after scrubbing a portion of it. My dad came out to inspect my work and quickly noticed that the bottom of the pool wasn’t cleaned, but he took a unique approach to redirecting my work. “Trevor, would you put your name behind this work?” This question quickly made me pick up the brush and get back to cleaning, but it struck a life-long chord of mine when it comes to character and integrity: Would you be willing to put your name behind this work?
Now, I likely will not be starting a pool cleaning service any time soon, but I learned that day that I have the ability to let my work and actions reflect my work ethic and integrity. My father took the time to not just make sure that a job got done, but that a job would continue to get done for the rest of my life at a level that mirrors who I am. This character capital has made a bigger influence on my life than anything that he could monetarily pass on to me because it has shaped who I am. The beauty is that if any financial capital is left to me, it will likely reflect these virtues because they are naturally ingrained in who I am.
One way we see character passed to others is in how we volunteer: a selfless act that is for the betterment of others rather than just ourselves. An interesting fact is that 39.9% of parents reported volunteer compared to 30.3% of adults. Now, as a single man, I will happily say that this is not a predictive discrepancy, but it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that parents want to make sure they are doing a more visible job of passing on their virtues in service. Even more noble, though, is making sure that you are living up to your character no matter who is watching.
So, I will leave you with these two questions: is there a singular standard by which you live your life that you will stand by? How are you ensuring that this standard is being passed down to those you love?
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