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I was recently given the book “The Road to Character” by David Brooks. Not going lie – it just sounded like an interesting, good book to read. Of course, it reminded me of Mr. Wolf’s line in Pulp Fiction, “Because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character.” I was a little concerned that the book had been given to me by my priest, Father Bob.

So, with a little humor and a little trepidation, I dove into “The Road to Character.” I was immediately drawn to the concept of the competing sides of human nature, described as Adam I and Adam II.

Adam I is the external: the builder, the producer, the conqueror of the world. Adam I is out to impress.

Adam II is the internal: the moral, the solid sense of right and wrong, the server of the world. Adam II gives to receive.

Brooks outlines Adam I and Adam II literally on the first page and then spends the remainder of the book on Adam II. What a pattern interrupt for me! How many books have I read on Adam I and how to grow our business, build better teams, be more profitable, or conquer my own little corner of the world.

As Brooks explores real examples of Adam II, ranging from Augustine to George Marshall to Mary Anne Evans, I kept coming back to the concept of Adam I vs Adam II. Brooks states that “the most important thing is whether you are willing to engage in moral struggle against yourself… whether you are willing to engage this struggle well: joyfully and compassionately.”

I started to connect the dots between leading my company – the internal and external goals we have for 2016 – and Adam II characteristics. Can they coexist? Can I succeed at both?

I was reminded of Jim Collins’s work in “Good to Great” and his concept of Level 5 leadership. Collins states that “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company” and “their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves”.

There seems to be crossover here. Do Level 5 leaders exhibit Adam II traits? Does the ability to suppress one’s own ego serve everyone better?

I think a connection does exist and it’s an idea worth exploring. I’ve asked key leaders in my company to help me explore this idea. My hope is that we can succeed in our internal and external goals while exhibiting and holding true to Adam II characteristics.

If you ever want to discuss these ideas or concepts, particularly my connection between Adam II and Level 5 leaders, I’d welcome the opportunity to hear from you.

Thoughtfully Yours,



One thought on “Character

  1. Joel,
    I saw an interview with David Brooks on TV abut a month ago. Brooks is a University of Chicago grad, I’m proud to say. What you said in your blog and what he said about Adam II made me thing about Patrick Lencioni’s description of Temptation #5 in his book, “The Five Temptations of the CEO.” Temp #5 is Invulnerability of Trust. Adam II can be vulnerable, Adam I falls victim to that temptation. If you can’t trust and you’re not vulnerable, you’ll never feel fulfilled.

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