Build Your Character to Build Your Career Success

In a previous career success post, I discussed the importance of character.  I referenced he book Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson.  That book listed six strengths and 24 character traits that lead to your life and career success.

At the end of the post, I urged you to take some action.  Here is what I said…

Take out a sheet of paper.  Create three columns.  List the character traits in the left column.  Label the center column “A real strength for me;” Label the third column, “I need to work on this.”  Then think about each character trait and put an “X” in column that most describes you.  This takes courage, but I guarantee that it will be a valuable exercise if you’re serious about creating the life and career success you want and deserve.

I did this exercise and decided that I need to work on seven of the character traits to conitnue my career success journey…

• Creativity
• Bravery
• Persistence
• Love
• Forgiveness and Mercy
• Prudence
• Self-Regulation

Three of the seven – Forgiveness and Mercy, Prudence and Self-Regulation — fell into the Temperance strength, and two of the seven – Bravery and Persistence — fell into the Courage strength.

Here’s my honest self-evaluation on the area in which I need to improve.

Forgiveness and Mercy is defined as, “Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.”  I am not an extremely vengeful person, but there are times when I have difficulty forgiving and forgetting.  I need to be less judgmental and do a better job of letting by gones be by gones.  I do give people second chances, but I have a hard time forgetting real or perceived wrongs I’ve experienced.

Prudence is defined as, “Being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.”  I sometimes act impulsively.  I have a tendency to make decisions without weighing all the pros and cons.  I have gotten better at this as I’ve gotten older, but this is still an area on which I need to work.  I used to say and do things that got me in trouble when I was younger.  I am better at that now.  I think before I speak more often and hold my counsel when it is appropriate to do so.

Self-Regulation is defined as, “Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions.”  I have struggled with weight all of my life.  I work at being disciplined about what I eat and how much I exercise.  Still I often eat more than I need, and I often eat foods that aren’t healthy.  I’m better at this than I once was, but this is a constant battle for me.  I have gotten better at exercise.  I am more disciplined about it.  I like to bike.  It’s good exercise for me, but there are days when I choose to not do so.  On the other hand, I was able to cut alcohol out of my life.  I haven’t had a drink in over 20 years.  I was a beer drinker – and beer is nothing but empty calories.  Not drinking helps my weight and it helps me with the Prudence character trait.  I am less likely to do an say inappropriate things when I am not drinking.

Bravery is defined as, “Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular. “  I am physically brave.  One of my rugby mates once described me as “someone who never took a backward step on the pitch.”  However, I often don’t act on my convictions.  I detest racism, sexism and homophobia.  Yet sometimes I am silent in the company of racists, sexists and homophobes.  To me, this is a lack of moral bravery.  I need to be more willing to appropriately confront racism, sexism and homophobia when I encounter them before I can truly call myself a brave person.

Persistence is defined as, “Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles.”  I see this one as pass/fail.  I’m pretty persistent.  It takes a lot to knock my off course once I start something.  For example, I’m committed to blogging and I’ve written five blog posts a week, 50 weeks a year for seven years.  That takes some persistence.  Still, there are projects I’ve begun and not finished.  Writing a novel is one of them.  I’ve start about 10 times over the years and I’ve never finished.  Until I finish every project I start, I won’t give myself a positive rating on persistence.

Creativity is defined as “Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things.”   I tend to think of myself as creative, yet when I see one of my friends or colleauge create something that is truly novel, I realize that I often go with the tried and true.  I attribute this more to expediency rather than a lack of creativity.  Before I can say that I am truly creative, I need to begin looking at everything I do with fresh, unbiased eyes.

Love is defined as “Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.”  I can be very self-absorbed.  I can let my work interfere with my relationship with my wife.  I get lost in books, spending hours reading when my relationships would be better served by engaging in conversation.  I am not an unthoughtful person, but I need to be more in tune with the needs of those who love me.

That’s my assessment of myself on the Seligman and Peterson character traits.  This was not an easy exercise for me, and I doubt it will be easy for you.  But I urge to do give it a go.  Be honest with yourself.  You’ll find things you like and things you don’t.  But identifying your character flaws is the first step in becoming a person of high character and in becoming the career success you deserve to be.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, you have to be of strong character.  Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson’s definition of personal strengths and character traits is a good place to start.  I suggest you do an honest self-assessment to see where you stand on them.  I have prepared two .pdfs that will help you do so.  One is a definition of the strengths and character traits.  You can download it at  The other is a worksheet to help you with the assessment.  You can download it at  If you are serious about becoming a person of strong character, you’ll complete the self-assessment and then decide what you’ll do to build your character.  This is an important life and career success exercise.  Do it, and you’ll be helping yourself create the life and career success you want and deserve.

That’s my career advice when it comes to building your character.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  Also, please follow my example and share your self-evaluation with us.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first contains 140 bits of career success advice, all in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site on September 1.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  To celebrate the grand opening, I’m giving away a new career advice book I’ve written called I Want YOU…To Succeed in Your Corporate Climb.  You can find out about the membership site and get the career advice in I Want YOU… for free by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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