Character Counts

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My daughter’s 7th grade class is thinking about character–what it is, how it is created, and whether it can be shaped.

For the record, the latest social science says that the 7 character traits most linked to success and happiness are:

–Optimism (I struggle with this one; I know too much)

–Gratitude (I try, I try)

–Social Intelligence (I’m not exactly sure what this is but I think I have it)

–Curiosity (Definitely)

–Self-Control (Usually)

–Enthusiasm (Sometimes)

–Grit (Mine is more like stubborness, but I think that counts)

My daughter watched this 8-minute video, which is a beautiful and artfully crafted homage to the idea that developing good character traits, and appreciating good character traits in others, is a stupendous force for good. It really makes me want to keep trying to be a better person.

(It also had the virtue of introducing me to the clever and captivating work of Tiffany Schlain and her Moxie Institute).

Life Lessons: The Rewards Of Rejecting The Consumer/Debt Culture

Mr. Money Mustache (okay, that’s his pen name) retired at 30. How? he and his family don’t over-consume and aren’t wasteful. And they are happy:

To hundreds of thousands of devotees, he is Mister Money Mustache. And he is here to tell you that early retirement doesn’t only happen to Powerball winners and those who luck into a big inheritance. He and his wife retired from middle-income jobs before they had their son. Exasperated, as he puts it, by “a barrage of skeptical questions from high-income peers who could still use a debt advice service years after we were free from work,” he created a no-nonsense personal finance blog and started spilling his secrets. I was eager to know more. He is Pete (just Pete, for the sake of his family’s privacy). He lives in Longmont, Colo. He is ridiculously happy. And he’s sure his life could be yours.

Read the interview with Mr. Money Mustache (how could you resist advice from a guy who calls himself that?).

I know a guy who does oddjobs, plays bagpipes at Renaissance festivals, sleeps under his pickup, and lives on $10,000 a year. It can be done. The “American Dream” you see pitched on TV is all about getting you to buy lots of stuff. It is not the only path (and in fact it is a path with serious pitfalls).