Virtue Mastery: 13 Secrets to success and fulfillment

(A continuation of the “fulfillment at work and life” series)

So we’ve established the fact that people are generally disengaged at work (see here). And we know that charting a trajectory towards a career more aligned to our sweet spot (see here) will take time.

But we need to find engagement and fulfillment NOW. One option, as explained here, is the pursuit of mastery.

But “pursue mastery” is so ambiguous as to lead to acute decision paralysis. “What should I attempt to master?”

Clearly, there are distinct skill sets to master, which we’ll cover more in the “Self Discovery” portion of this series. But at a much higher level, fulfillment and success (in life and in work) can be found by pursuing a life of virtue.

Establishing virtues (core competencies, core beliefs, or values), and then pursuing their mastery provides you with a strong moral compass. They give you a sense of direction when the path before you is unclear. They become the instruments by which you can navigate when visibility is limited.

Conversely, a virtueless life creates feelings of confusion, isolation, complexity, and the distinct feeling of being lost, and not knowing where to go. Each of these are tremendously taxing emotions.

Benjamin Franklin suggested 13 virtues one should pursue, which he identified as follows:

TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”

SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”

ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”

RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”

FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”

INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”

SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”

JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”

MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”

CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”

TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”

CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”

HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Benjamin Franklin’s goal was to imbue his life with meaning and worth by allowing these virtues to be the foundation of all his actions.

In order to facilitate the pursuit of mastery of these overarching virtues, he created a book of 13 charts. Each chart consisted of a column for every day of the week, and 13 rows (one for each virtue).

At the end of every day, he would measure himself (see this post on the extreme value of measurement), by checking a box next to each virtue he had violated, with the goal being to have a clean sheet at the end of each day.

He had 13 of these sheets, and each day he would focus on a single virtue, identifying it at the top of the sheet, along with a “short precept” to explain it’s meaning.

By doing so, over the course of 13 weeks he would have devoted one full week specifically to more fully understanding (and living) that particular virtue, and then he would repeat the cycle all over again.

If you’re in the need of something to master, I would recommend trying out Benjamin Franklin’s approach. After all, he was a pretty bright guy.

Let me know how it goes!

Rusty

Note:  Thank you for being here. If you know of anyone else who is going through a difficult time in life or with their career, please share this post series with them, and invite them to join in the journey.

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