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Character Is Destiny: The Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life [Hardcover]

By Russell Gough (Author)
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Item description for Character Is Destiny: The Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life by Russell Gough...

An inescapable truth lies at the heart of this simple yet profound book: The quality of our lives is not determined by the happenstance of genetics or by the influence of environment; it is not measured in material possessions or in the trappings of youth; it is not dependent on personality or social acclaim. On the contrary, the intrinsic value of the lives we lead reflects the strength of a single trait: our personal character. Character Is Destiny, a sort of self-help guide for the soul, shows how we can lead richer lives simply by being better people.

167 pages in 14 chapters

Publishers Description
An inescapable truth lies at the heart of this simple yet profound book: The quality of our lives is not determined by the happenstance of genetics or by the influence of environment; it is not measured in material possessions or in the trappings of youth; it is not dependent on personality or social acclaim. On the contrary, the intrinsic value of the lives we lead reflects the strength of a single trait: our personal character. Character Is Destiny, a sort of self-help guide for the soul, shows how we can lead richer lives simply by being better people.
"This profound book reminds us how utterly central character is to all else in life . . . I plan to stay in touch with this book for many years." — Shelby Steele
Russell W. Gough, a nationally prominent writer and speaker, describes the steps to personal growth from examining our lives to taking responsibility for our actions, from discarding selfishness to embracing the greater good, from becoming a better role model for our loved ones to finding the courage to do the right thing naturally and consistently. By cultivating the habits of virtue, we will strengthen not only ourselves but, more important, our families and our world. Character Is Destiny shows how to overcome the most formidable obstacle to an ethical life: ourselves.
Each and every day we are faced with scores of choices that, in subtle yet discernible ways, can either enrich or impoverish our personal character. The choices we make, and the manner in which we make them, illuminate the paths our lives will take. Character Is Destiny can be our compass.
"This profound book reminds us how utterly central character is to all else in life . . . I plan to stay in touch with this book for many years."
— Shelby Steele
"This book speaks directly to the moral crisis of our time. It is a book educators, parents, and just good people will not want to miss."
— Amatai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community
"Reading Character is Destiny is like listening to a trusted friend giving you heartfelt, character-building advice. Its wise, passionate, and down-to-earth message will not only show you how and why but will make you want to improve the ethical quality of your everyday life"
— Jack Canfield, coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Soul series
"For anyone concerned with the moral decline of the nation and looking for the prescription for cure, this is a good place to start."
— Yitta Halberstam, coauthor of Small Miracles
"Russ Gough has accomplished something very rare: A college philosopher has written a book in real English for real people on the most important subject of all—character. I congratulate him."
— Dennis Prager, radio talk-show host and author of Think a Second Time
Russell W. Gough is a professor of ethics and philosophy at Pepperdine University. He lectures frequently across the country and is a chairman for the annual White House Conference on Character Building. His articles on ethics and character have appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and elsewhere. In addition, he is the author of the book Character Is Everything: Promoting Ethical Excellence in Sports.
Foreword by William Kilpatrick, author of Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong
T.S. Eliot once observed that some of his contemporaries were in the habit of "dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good." The dream of finding a substitute for character is still, of course, very much alive. After all, being good is hard work. How much better if, by some happy arrangement, society would discover the right technical or governmental solution to problems such as incivility, crime, drug abuse, and irresponsible sex. A number of these technical solutions have already been tried–clean needles, Norplant, safe-sex kits, gun exchange programs, and the like–but they never seem to improve our situation. And they never manage to relieve us of our responsibilities.
The dream of a society "so perfect that no one will need to be good" is really a child's dream. It betrays a hope that the "grownups" (society, the government) will take care of everything so the rest of us can just play. This is exactly the kind of attitude we might expect to arise in a culture where so many people are in search of their own inner child. And it helps to explain why, when hurt in the pursuit of play and pleasure, so many look for someone else–a corporation, a product manufacturer–to blame.
We need to stop dreaming. The truth is, there is no substitute for personal character and there never will be. By the same token, there is no way to educate young people for character in the absence of adults with character. Character development is not something the schools can do through the introduction of some new, technically perfect curriculum. Rather, the best way for a young person to learn good habits of behavior is by identifying with and imitating adults who already practice those habits. By making adult character education its primary focus, Character Is Destiny reminds us that the process of cultivating virtue and overcoming vice in one's personal character does not–should not–end simply because one has entered adulthood. Indeed, it reminds us that being of adult age is one thing, but actually being adult, in the sense of exemplifying moral maturity as a matter of regular practice, is quite another. And perhaps more tellingly, it reminds us that no matter who we are and no matter how ethically comfortable or self-satisfied we have become, all of us fall far short of perfection, and thus should steadfastly keep striving to become fully grown moral beings.
What does it mean, from a moral point of view, to be an adult? Charakter, the word Aristotle uses to describe moral maturity, means "enduring marks." There is something lasting about a person of character. He or she does not change with the seasons, is not, in Shakespeare's words, "a pipe for fortune's finger to sound what stop she please." To help us understand the term better, Professor Gough makes a useful distinction between character and personality (a word with which our society is far more comfortable). What's the difference between the two? Consider the following poem:
Out upon it! I have loved
Three whole days together;
And am like to love three more,
If it prove fair weather.
We can easily detect a personality here. The narrator of Sir John Sucklin's seventeenth-century poem seems to have plenty of that. He strikes us as bold, engaging, humorous–the sort we refer to as a lovable rogue. But it's hard to detect any enduring traits of character in this "constant lover." A charming personality, perhaps, but, in other respects, reliably unreliable.
There are countless books available to tell us how to develop more charming or persuasive personality, but few that tell us how we can acquire the more important traits of good character–the kind of traits that make it possible to be a "constant lover" in the true sense, or to be a constant and committed parent. But Character Is Destiny is more than a how-to book. Professor Gough provides us not only with commonsense practices, but also the commonsense philosophy that infuses practice with meaning. Moreover, he is aware of the self-defeating attitudes we often employ: "That's just the way I am," "I'm too set in my ways to change," or "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Refreshingly, Character Is Destiny rejects such moral evasions, and replaces them with pragmatic guidelines for pursuing and cultivating virtue.
Equally refreshing, Character Is Destiny sticks to its subject. Now that politicians have discovered "character" and "virtue," the terms have become a bit suspect. The inevitable question that occurs is, "Is there some hidden agenda here?" Is this a book about political ideology? About being conservative or liberal? The answer to these questions is no. Rather, it's simply, though profoundly, about being a person of good character, a person of virtue. And people of good character and virtue, of course, can and do give allegiance to any number of political parties and persuasions. We all know people who, though we may agree with them on the issues of the day, are people we can never really trust. Conversely, we all know others who we trust implicitly even though we don't see eye-to-eye on politics. This book's sole allegiance is to the ethical character that allows all people, regardless of political persuasion, to live lives of integrity. And in so doing it is a book for everybody, precisely because it speaks to us on the most fundamental level–as free moral agents.
We owe Russell Gough a debt of gratitude for making clear what most "experts" in character education fail to realize: We become better people not by discussing ethics, but by practicing good behavior. In this profound yet simple book, Gough reminds us that the hard part of morality is not knowing what is right, but doing what is right. Is doing the right thing something we can learn in three easy steps? No, says Professor Gough, but the good news is that, with time and practice, acting with courage, fairness, and self-control becomes increasingly natural and effortless. This is an important contribution to the national debate about character. And, equally important, it's the kind of book that can make a real difference in the life of the reader.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Crown Forum
Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.6" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 1997
Publisher   Crown Forum
ISBN  0761511636  
ISBN13  9780761511632  

Availability  0 units.

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1Books > Subjects > Business & Investing > Careers
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7Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Ethics & Morality

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Reviews - What do customers think about Character Is Destiny: The Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life?

Great teaching tool for our Bible class  Nov 18, 2007
We are using this book to discuss character and how to develop it in our Bible class. While the book is not written from a religious point of view, the principles in this book are congruent with Biblical principles. This is a truly wonderful book that I encourage others to read.
Short and sweet  Mar 8, 2007
This book can probably be read in just a day, but the truths it emphasizes will be valuable for life.
Our Destiny Lies In How We Treat People.  Sep 11, 2006
Ethics means you should start with an open mind and listen to those you trust. Then, you make your own decisions. What is right for one may not be the situation for you. You must be able to dream and to hold to your dreams. That is most important, as the dreams tell us what is happening in our subconscious mind. It's hard, but you have to be able to accept criticism and grow from the hurtful comments of others. A great rule of thumb when someone does something intentionally to harm you or your psyche is to "consider the source," and go from there. If you value that person and his opinion, it might be choice to try his advice; if not, smile and say "thank you."

Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," was a failure to himself and his family because he embraced "a corrupt vrsion of the American dream which defines success as money, status and celebrity. Like that conman in "Born Yesterday," written by Garson Kanin. Both plays were written in the 1940s and showed capitalism at its worst.

A good moral code is basically a set of values and principles which guide one's behavior. To be perfect, it should be based on religious training of a lifetime starting with the Ten Commandments of the Bible. Jesus led an exemplary life for his time and place. Today's world is filled with evil. New Orleans, deemed the most sinful city (along with Las Vegas), felt God's wrath with Katrina. The Bible promised we would not be destroyed by floods in the story of Noah and the Ark. Knoxville is teetering on the brink of being almost as sinful with so much emphasis on liquor. It, too, is in store for some form of God's wrath -- in what form, I'm not sure. But I predict that the walls will come crumbling down on Gay Street someday. A moral compass is useful for questions of right and wrong.

The hardest choices rise to the top because the questions which could have been solved with simple rules are delegated to others. Such is our city government, as the mayor isn't facile enough to follow through on his promises to the common folk. This is a town of "studies and plans" going on for years, with no follow through. It takes outsiders to come in and corrupt the whole town. Drinking, drugging, carousing on the downtown streets openly by people who were not born here will be the downfall of a town, not the city it could have been. I have never been good at judging character; thus, I have been let down by some I trusted. But then, I am not a leader; nor a follower be -- I tend to take the road least taken. I believe in causes and was told recently that I came home for a reason. Whether I succeed or fail is still up in the air, and I have made an impact -- something I could never have achieved had I stayed here all of my life. We see in the photographs of the Civil War how Abraham Lincoln changed from the confident President to one of toil and pain etched "ever deeper" in his face. He cared deeply and the price he paid was his life.
How to overcome the biggest obstacle to an ethical life: yourself!!!  Jan 18, 2006

This slim book by professor of ethics and philosophy Russell Gough is like a self-help guide for the soul, showing how we can lead better lives simply by being better people. Gough elaborates:

"This book offers what I call mirroring, rather than a finger-pointing, approach. In one-to-one, conversational fashion, its primary goal is to encourage each of us to think about improving our personal terms of our own personal character...Each chapter of this book is designed to emphasize a given aspect of the all-important nature of personal character [and are] designed to encourage practical self-reflection and enduring personal growth."

What is character? Character, as used in this book, is "what you are in your essence, the sum total of your habits, your personal assortment of virtues [or goods] and vices [or bads]." The title of this book, "Character is Destiny," is an actual quotation uttered by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

In fact, each chapter of this book is titled by an actual quotation from a person of great character. These quotes "capture the force and point of each chapter." You'll find that these quotations or chapter titles "are definitely well-worth committing to memory by."

Each of these quotations or chapter titles comes from the following people:

(1) Heraclitus (Greek philosopher)
(2) Socrates (Greek philosopher)
(3) Dwight Moody (American evangelist)
(4) Anne Frank (German-Jewish teen who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust and subsequently died at age fifteen in a concentration camp)
(5) Ralph Waldo Emerson (American poet and essayist)
(6) Aristotle (Greek philosopher)
(7) Paul (the Apostle)
(8) Albert Schweitzer (German theologian, musician, and missionary)
(9) Jean Paul Richter (German humorist)
(10) The author (ethics & philosophy professor and author)
(11) An anonymous person (thought to be Charles Reade, English novelist)

You'll find that each chapter is easy-to-read and written with great conviction and eloquence. There is not reams and reams of theory to sort through. This book is written in real English for real people on perhaps the most important subject of all--character.

There is an appendix (not labeled as such) to this book that, in my opinion, is very important. Here, Gough states the following:

"In this book, I have focused on the vast majority of times in our daily lives when we have a pretty clear idea of the ethical line separating the right thing to do from the wrong thing to do. Thus, our discussion has been one not of knowing the right thing to do but of having the character to do the right thing."

But what of those rare situations where there is NOT a clear ethical line where we "truly [don't] know what is most ethically appropriate to do." These are called ethical dilemmas. I was glad to see that the author gives us insight into handling these difficult situations.

Who is this book written for? I would say for high school students, college and university students, and adults: in other words, for everyone. (I disagree with the second part of the last sentence of the this site editorial review above.)

Finally, I liked the idea that the author stated that he was not perfect ethically. Thus, this is not a book written by a preachy person who thinks he's a saint or thinks that he lives on Mount Olympus.

In conclusion, this is a well-written, easy-to-read book that speaks directly to the moral crisis of our time!!

(first published 1998; forward; preface; introduction; 14 chapters; appendix; main narrative 160 pages; notes)

Good Stuff  Aug 23, 2001
The author did a great job all around. He at least nibbles around the edges of trying to put a philosophical foundation under this, still largely, "how to" book. If, like me, you would like to go further and understand the solid foundation that supports all of the author's fine work, I'll give you a tip that can save you a lot of prolix philosophical reading. I found a book called "WEST POINT", by Norman Thomas Remick that explains all the philosophy in easy to read, understandable language behind the 200 years of character building at West Point, the world's premier school for that purpose. It will advance your understanding of the principles presented so expertly by Mr. Gough in his 5 star effort. Regardless of whether you are serious about understanding what all this is REALLY all about, you'll find "CHARACTER IS DESTINY" readable and enjoyable.

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