I have an acquaintance I speak with on occasion.
I’ve known this guy for a long time. Since I’ve known him, he’s always complained to me about his job: he hates it.
His hate for his job isn’t for lack of pay or perks – they are way above average. The dislike is for the structure of the organization that employs him and the tedious, unchallenging and often pointless work he feels he is doing.
He’s remarked on more than one occasion that a high-school freshman could do his job (90% of his day job is creating PowerPoint slides).
This is beside the point though.
You see, for as long as I’ve known him, he has intended to quit his job and move onto something better (something exciting and challenging).
At least this is what he said he wanted.
You see, the time came when he was finally allowed to leave (when he had finished his initial contract period with his employer), but he didn’t leave. Instead, he signed another contract with his employer for an indefinite period of time (one that will most certainly last for another 2+ years).
Slightly confused, I asked him why.
Him: “Because there’s nothing else that I really want to do. I figure I’ll just ride it out and see where it takes me.”
Me: “But I thought you hated your job?”
Him: “Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not that bad. I don’t really do anything. I show up at 9, leave at 3 or 4, and I take a 2 hour lunch. You can’t beat it. If it gets really bad, I’ll quit and become a teacher.”
The conversation continued on for a bit, but not into any meaningful territory. At the end of the conversation, we parted ways, and, for one reason or another, I remembered a quote by Aristotle:
“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
What Aristotle is saying is this: we pick and choose and build our character – it is not naturally ingrained in us at birth.
The brave man is made so through brave actions; the just woman is made so through just actions. Neither one was born this way – they consciously built themselves this way.
This is a powerful truth, one that should give hope to all who strive valiantly, who dare boldly, and who struggle to be better, day in and day out: as long as you never quit, you will most certainly become that which you practice consistently.
But this is also a wake-up call: if we can become virtuous from acts of virtue, then the opposite is true.
We become cowards through acts of cowardice; lazy through acts of laziness; weak through lack of action.
You’ve probably heard the idiom: actions speak louder than words.
They’re also a testament to our character.
What do your actions say about you?