Measuring Character

I was recently reminded of a post that came across my blog feed a while back by Dave Winer titled – “Your human-size life.” The entire post is worth a read, but the opening is great:

In the early years of this blog I wrote a lot about the personal struggles of people who had attained financial independence only to find out that it revealed that money was not what was standing in the way of happiness.

It’s a reminder that money is important, but it isn’t everything. Sure, we need it to live, but there is a point where it isn’t about how much you have.

It rekindles memories of one of my favorite movies growing up, Wall Street. There’s a powerful scene where Bud Fox confronts his Dad in an elevator. They’ve just left an important meeting where his Dad rejects Bud and Gordon Gecko’s request to support their takeover of the company he has worked for his whole life.

Bud is driven by money and desire. His dad is motivated by principle. It’s intense.

The line that has stuck with me through the years is when Martin Sheen shoots back at his son, who accuses of him of being jealous of his son’s success: “What you see is a guy who never measured a man’s success by the size of his wallet!”

I would rephrase the line to “a man’s character is not measured by the size of his wallet.”

Yes, money matters. We need it to live, to eat, to enjoy some of the finer pleasures in life. But there are limits. As Dave Winer so astutely points out, “…your humanity doesn’t increase just because your wealth did. You don’t get bigger.”

When all is said and done, it’s not the size of our wallet, it’s the size of our character that matters most. It’s the part of us that can’t be taken away. It’s built by practicing and embodying the Stoic virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation. We build it through how we use the talents and things we’ve been granted. It’s grows by loving others as we do our self, positively influencing those around us, doing our job, being an example.

One’s happiness is not determined by their wealth.

A man’s character is not measured by the size of his wallet.

Timeless words of wisdom, and a reminder to my future self to use and invest my time wisely.