What the hell is “Character?”

The more I travel the more conversations I have that deeply resonate with me and yet stir up so much emotion.

So there I am, having a conversation in a bar with a stranger like we had known each other for years. We were both laying on the floor some of our deep, dark challenges that stemmed from childhood events that changed us.

See I was picked on and tormented and at several point, highly depressed and suicidal. She was sexually abused.

We both had questions about what that did to our character, and how we identified ourself.

They say the most powerful beliefs come after the words “I am….”

So how do you make change?

What if you don’t want to be the things you say you are!?

What if you’re changing, do those words change too?

Well, I’m here to say, that even we were asking the wrong questions.

Yes, those words change. Just like you don’t say “I am five years old,” the words HAVE to change. But the conversations I’m having now aren’t about those words.

The conversation is about how we can look at ourselves as a person of high character who makes mistakes and veers of course now and again.

So the question is, how can I define and describe my high character more clearly?

You remember that English teacher that scolded your prankster behavior with one of those axioms that were supposed to feel like widsom?

“Character is what you do when no one is watching.”

Oh, maybe that was just my middle school experience!

Well, recently it was in conversation where someone said that character was fluid. I challenged that.

But how was I going to defend this? I don’t know that there’s an established definition of character.

While I dont think that was wrong, it was incomplete.

Character is what you do, regardless of who is looking. It shouldn’t be that one person gets another version of you than another, and exemplary character is consistent leadership in the interest of others.

It’s easy, especially in todays scarcity-and-fear-based climate to think that when someone else is leading, you can’t.

But great charater is the ability to lead, follow, and believe in something enough to be consistently present in the good and bad times of the work, no matter who’s looking or how many likes you get.

So, how would this ripple back to our original question?

Task 1: Identify and Define High Character

Make a list of what kinds things you’d like to believe in and be a part of. It can be simple or complex. Maybe it’s about the way you see life. Maybe it’s about how you see people. Maybe it’s about how you want to be. Is it a list like mine:

  • long term over short term gains takes place with small steps consistently
  • life is short, so there’s no time to waste doing things you don’t like doing
  • every person has a gift, they just might not be able to see it
  • do something that makes others better and you’ll never be left alone
  • the power of movement is greater than most other drugs
  • be around amazing people, ask bold questions
  • See the world, whatever it takes
  • Don’t set goals to achieve, but set them to create processes that will carry you far

Task 2: Convert Your List Into PIllars

Then you can convert your list into more typical character verbage. So I might take “long term over short term gains takes place with small steps consistently” and write – Consistent.


“Be around amazing people, ask bold questions” into “A fearless people person”

Get creative, get weird. There’s no rules to this.

But when I’m done, I like to take my Pillars and post them somewhere. Then, whether I have a bad day, great day, shitty afternoon, I can look at that and know who I want to be.

Sometimes my reflection is one of self-improvement. Sometimes I’m proud that I lived up to my standard.

Either way, without these pillars, I’m not sure who I would be striving to be.

So the question is, who are you striving to be?

Send me a message, leave me a note, or comment if you need some help thinking through this.

I read em all!

PS – you may want to also read up on what INDEPENANCE really is about if you want to get a sense of how others play into our ecosystems and character

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