Picture yourself standing on the crossroads of life, with paths spreading out in every direction. To your left, a route lined with glowing accolades, gleaming certificates, and enticing job titles. To your right, a road less trodden, paved with unseen smiles, unspoken kindness, and warm hearts touched. Which would you choose? In a recent column, writer David Brooks vividly paints this very picture. He illustrates the dichotomy of ‘résumé virtues’ and ‘eulogy virtues’, two different sets of qualities we gather and nurture throughout our lives.

The résumé virtues, as the term suggests, are the ones you neatly list on your CV. They are the hard skills, the flashy talents, the impressive qualifications you bring to the marketplace. These are the ingredients that spice up job applications and draw the eyes of employers. It’s like being a dazzling magician, mastering tricks that elicit awe from the crowd, where the magic lies in your prowess, your capability, your competency. But remember, while these virtues might land you in the spotlight, they merely highlight what you can do, not who you are.

On the other side of the spectrum lie the eulogy virtues. These are the qualities that resonate in the hearts of those around you. They are the tender moments of empathy, the small acts of kindness, the persistent courage in the face of adversity. They are the virtues that ripple through your life, subtly influencing and guiding your actions. Like the roots of a mighty oak, these are the unseen depths that anchor you firmly in the storm, unseen to the eye but powerful in essence.

So, how do we balance these opposing sets of virtues? The scales of life often tip towards résumé virtues, pushed by society’s relentless pursuit of achievement and success. However, at the end of the day, when the spotlight fades and the curtains close, what truly matters?

Imagine attending a eulogy. The air is thick with somber respect and heartfelt reminiscing. Will the speaker laud the deceased’s technical skills, or their proficiency in a foreign language? Or, will they speak of the lives touched, the love shared, the laughter ignited? It is these virtues, the ones that go beyond the confines of a résumé, that truly shape our character, and it is these virtues that linger in the hearts of those we leave behind.

Every choice you make, every decision you take, quietly sculpts the statue of your character. With each decision, you etch a part of yourself into the bedrock of your existence. It is these decisions that reflect your innermost values, the ones you hold dear.

So, let’s ask ourselves again, which virtues do we prioritize? Both certainly matter. Your résumé virtues help carve out your professional path, while your eulogy virtues shape your personal legacy. Yet, the order in which we prioritize these virtues is of utmost importance.

As we stride forward in life, let’s not forget the essence of our existence. Strive to balance the virtues that enhance your career with those that enrich your character. Cherish the duality of these virtues and allow them to shape your decisions, your life, and ultimately, your legacy.

A eulogy is not merely a farewell to a life lived, but a testament to a character forged. So, as we make decisions, let’s ensure that they are not merely résumé additions, but eulogy worthy.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.