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A 'Narcissistic Blowhard' Considers The History Of Character Development

David Brooks at the 2011 TED Conference in Long Beach, California.
Flickr Photo/Vasudev Bhandarkar
David Brooks at the 2011 TED Conference in Long Beach, California.

Author and journalist David Brooks says that he gets paid to be a “narcissistic blowhard” and that he has to work harder than most people “to avoid a life of smug superficiality.”

As far as blowhards go, he seems fairly humble. He told NPR “the turning point in a life toward maturity is looking inside yourself and saying, 'What's the weakness that I have that leads to behavior that I'm not proud of?”

Brooks’ most recent book is “The Road To Character.” In it he challenges himself and his readers to balance “resume virtues” — wealth, fame and status — against “eulogy virtues” — kindness, honesty and faithfulness. He argues that our “Big Me” culture should rethink priorities in order to build richer inner lives.

To aid in this pursuit he looks to the lives of historical figures who struggled to build their character. In this talk he reflects on examples from President Dwight Eisenhower, writers Samuel Johnson and George Elliot, and the first woman to serve as a U.S. Cabinet member, Frances Perkins.

Brooks is a columnist for the New York Times and commentator for PBS, NPR and NBC. He teaches at the Jackson Institute For Global Affairs at Yale University. He spoke at Town Hall Seattle on April 29. His talk was presented by The Elliott Bay Book Company. Thanks to Kevin Mitchem for our recording.

Photo credit: "David Brooks -- The Social Animal," by Vas Bhandarkar on Flickr(CC BY NC 2.0)

Year started with KUOW: 2006