The other day I came across a blog post titled How Successful People Choose Friends. The post was visually pleasing and assured the reader that successful people choose friends who can teach them something, are successful themselves, and are go-getters. The point of having friends, it seems, was to surround oneself with people who will help you achieve and keep your success.
Reading that made me uneasy. It also reminded me of something David Brooks said in the very introduction to his The Road to Character about resume virtues and eulogy virtues. Resume virtues, as David Brooks points out are the “ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to your external success. The eulogy virtues are… the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the very core of your being—whether you are kind, brave, honest, or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.” David Brooks goes on to point out that we live in a culture that puts far too much emphasis on resume virtues and pays only lip service to the eulogy ones.
Indeed, the whole book is an attempt (or rather a series of attempts) to show us, by example, how to live a good life, that is a life that is filled with eulogy virtues. And that’s what makes David Brooks’ work so thoughtful and so timely.
The blog post, by contrast, is shallow and, worse, selfish. Its whole premise is that your friends ought to be people who can do something to make you more successful; that, to put it a bit more crudely, they ought to be people you can use to get to the top.
Now, I am sure we all know people who have “friends” like that and who “befriend” people for precisely that reason. But I am not sure those are the kinds of people who are filled with eulogy virtues. Indeed, I am not sure those are the kinds of people I, for one, would necessarily want to hang around much.
How about you?