Resume or Eulogy?

Sunday, November 01, 2015 - By: Bud Patel, Head of School

Mr. Patel delivered this address to the school at Thursday’s assembly.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate to observe Mr. Skardal’s English 12 class who were wrapping up a unit’s work and were in a reflective mood. As the class meandered, I was struck by one of the texts they’ve been using – David Brooks’ reference that "Eulogies aren’t Resumes”.  Brooks argues that we should live as if we’re building stories for our eulogy, rather than hoarding things in the never-ending run of resume padding.

Brookes says “eulogies describe the person's care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage. They describe the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region.”

Imagine these sentences being used at someone’s funeral:
Her grammar was impeccable.
He was a superb test taker.
She won the BC Cross Country Championship.
He had the lead role in the musical.
She applied to 17 universities during her Grade 12 year.

Don’t get me wrong, these “external” accomplishments are worthy of praise, yet during most eulogies, these are glossed over in the first few moments of a longer, loving memoir of one’s life.

Take Mona Simpon’s eulogy to her brother, Steve Jobs. Despite the remarkable impact he made on our everyday lives – yes he was the leader of that company known as Apple – she focussed only briefly on his worldly accomplishments.  Instead  she said "Steve worked at what he loved. But what really moved him, what he really loved, was love. Love was his supreme virtue," she said, "his God of gods. And though, yes, he loved his work, he loved his family too.”
She went on to say…
"Steve was humble."
"Steve liked to keep learning."
"Steve cultivated whimsy."
"With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun."
"He treasured happiness."

The lesson is perhaps best summarized by David Brooks’ New York Times oped of April 11, 2015: “We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for resume success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external resume than on how to build inner character.”

Like life outside the Brentwood bubble, on this campus you have to make a multitude of decisions that will challenge your inner character.
If I have the sniffles, do I take my test today?
While I may not be starting, do I accept my role and support my team?
When things get difficult, do I quit or have the strength of character to carry on and finish off my commitment?
When things get difficult, am I courageous enough to ask for help?

Your inner character will always be tested. I hope you do well on life’s grand examination so that one day it’s eulogized.

Bud Patel, Head of School

To view Mr. Patel's address, please click here:



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