When he was in college and struggling to live up to the expectations of his illustrious family, the writer Walker Percy wrote a letter to his uncle and adopted father, Will Percy. He probably expected to receive a lecture about his grades in reply. Or be admonished for letting the family down. Or perhaps to be sent money for a tutor.
But the reply surprised him. Because there wasn’t any of that. Instead, Will waved those concerns off. “My whole theory about life,” Will told his beloved nephew and son, “is that glory and accomplishment are of far less importance than the creation of character and the individual good life.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that exactly what every stressed, self-critical, confused kid needs to hear in life? Who you are is more important than what you do. I’d rather you be good than successful. Character is more important than cash.
It can be easy to lose sight of this. Because we know how competitive the world is. Because we see the potential our kids have. Because we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did. But ultimately, those things will take care of themselves if we raise them right. The ancients knew that character was fate and we need to remember that with our own kids. The good life will be a successful life—and a more important one too.