The resumé virtues vs. the eulogy virtues.

The resumé virtues vs the eulogy virtues | Modern Mrs Darcy

work-in-progress oil painting of our first house, by my mama

It was my birthday. I was at work. Unbeknownst to me, my mom was across town, chatting it up with an old business-acquaintance-turned-family-friend.

Will and I were recently engaged, a bit of news my mom shared with her friend.

Will and I were hoping we’d find the right place to live when the time came, and my mom knew it. Maybe she mentioned it to her friend because she works in real estate; maybe she mentioned it simply because she was a mother, and her friend was one, too, and they were sharing their hopes and dreams for their kids.

Regardless of why my mom brought it up, she did. Her friend’s unexpected response was, “They are? I have a house they might be interested in.”

Six weeks later, she sold us our first house. It was a wonderful house, in an excellent location. She could have sold it to someone else who could have closed more quickly (because let me tell you, getting that first mortgage was no joke). She could have asked a higher price, and she would have gotten it. Easily.

But she didn’t. Out of the goodness of her heart, she sold it to us.

I thought of this old friend recently when I was listening to this TED talk by David Brooks.

It’s a short talk—only 5 minutes. In it, David Brooks talks about the difference between the resumé virtues and the eulogy virtues.

The resumé virtues are the external ones: the skills you bring to the marketplace, the ones you put on your resumé. The eulogy virtues go deeper, describing who you are in your depths, and what characterizes your relationships. They’re the traits that would be highlighted in your eulogy.

The eulogy virtues are more important, but they’re not the ones we think about the most or prioritize. Not most of us, anyway.

Our friend died recently. I wasn’t at her funeral, but I can imagine what her friends and family said in her eulogy. She had plenty of resumé virtues, all right, but she didn’t prioritize them, and they’re not what she’ll be remembered for, not by Will, nor I, nor anyone else.

We’ll remember her as someone who gave a young couple their start because she could, and she believed it was worth doing. As someone who could have been shrewd, but chose to be kind. As someone who could have eked more profit out of her deals, but chose to be generous.

P.S. 5 favorite TED talks.


Leave A Comment
  1. Kate Frishman says:

    What a great talk! I love all the fantastic people that TED highlights. TED talks are like old-fashioned chautauqua town hall lectures brought to life again for the modern age.

    On a side note, did you know your name now comes up as adthrive? I didn’t know it was you replying the other day.

  2. Jeannie says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes, Anne, because right now I’m near the bedside of my mom, who is about to pass from this world to the next. My mom’s resume is fairly slender but her eulogy virtues are numerous. As I see friends and relatives coming to visit and say goodbye and share their love for/with her, I see what a wonderful woman she was and how many lives she has touched. Thanks so much for sharing this today — it puts many things in perspective.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, Jeannie, I’m so sorry. I hope it is a comfort to see your mom honored by her friends.

      Anne, this post made me want to cry, too. I will listen to the ted talk. I hope I am doing better with eulogy values than I think.

  3. I’m not particularly morbid, but I do think about what I want to leave when I die. I’ve observed a number of people who, when they’ve died, have barely left a hole in the world.

    And seeing that always reminds me that I want to live in such a way that when I die, I leave a big hole behind me….the sort of hole-leaving that’s a result of spending your life loving and investing in people.

  4. Jenn says:

    I love the idea of resume virtues vs eulogy virtues. As a stay at home mom my resume virtues dwindle by the day but my eulogy virtues grow. How different would we live our lives if instead of handing out resumes we handed out eulogies?

  5. liz n. says:

    Among the life lessons I’ve tried to teach my children (protect the weak, speak your mind without being cruel, suck it up and don’t be a princess, etc) is a rule I make a very conscious effort to follow: don’t be the person who creates bad memories for others. It is too easy to say cutting words, turn a cold shoulder, get even… and we often don’t stick around to see the results of those kinds of actions. But I believe that deliberately making sure we turn the other cheek, put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes, and approach difficult, painful situations from an objective point of view lets us be the person who left a good mark instead of a scar. I’m not talking about being a doormat, but placing ourselves above pettiness and purely emotional reaction in a way that allows us to sleep well at night, knowing that we did no harm and maybe even did someone a good turn.

  6. Candice says:

    First of all, all of your posts this week have been top notch. At least for all the things I am going through.

    I had a gut check on this topic recently because I’ve trying to start my own life coaching business for a few months now, and it’s been difficult. My homework for a class at church was to reflect on the idea that we are made in the image of God, and try to name and weed out the things we are focusing on that aren’t reflecting the image of God. Unfortunately, a lot of the things I was (am) stressed and worried about over the business do not reflect the image of God. I realized that maybe that’s why people aren’t being drawn to it.

    Also, so sorry about the loss of a family friend!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the kind words and the condolences. Much appreciated. And I admire the mindset with which you’re approaching your coaching business. Wishing you well with that. 🙂

    • Ginger says:

      I don’t think we CAN separate our work from our soul. Our soul is our everything. Our soul enters into everything we are — from composing a symphony to making dinner to paying our taxes. But there is this growing trend to “follow your bliss.” Passion is wonderful, and filling, and important. It is important to consider, but it isn’t the only thing to consider. Not everyone has the luxury of doing work that fulfills their passion.

      Thankfully, I do. But it’s a very #firstworldmentality to expect that we all get to. Some people have to work in offices, pick up garbage, deliver boxes, provide for their families in ways that might not be creative or soul-inspiring. Maybe they bring their soul into what they do, not separating it, but bringing their soul into their life, instead of subjugating their life following their soul. Maybe picking up garbage is their passion. But maybe it’s not. And that doesn’t make it any less important, and noble.

      Sometimes, you do soul-worthy work (such as selling people homes, something we all need), but the work resume (making the most profit, and providing for your employees and family) are at odds with your desires (providing a wonderful start for a new family). Sometimes there is no wrong answer, just a best answer.

      I’ve been thinking about this idea, that seems to be particular to our generation, for a good while now. Perhaps I’m off base by thinking this is all what you meant by your reply, but I thought it was worth some discussion.

      Whitney English posted something that hit a cord recently on Instagram: (Be sure to read her caption, in addition to her gram, as she explains it so much better than I do.)

      • MelissaJoy says:

        Thanks, Ginger, I appreciate your thoughts. “Our soul enters everything we are.” Yes!

        Anne, I love how your realtor friend impacted your new marriage in a very tangible way.

        My initial question reflects my heart’s yearning for inner peace. I believe we were all created to do important work. We each have a destiny that is specific for us. It seems that it’s helpful for people to make a distinction between what they do for a living and who they feel they are which creates a fault line that seems unnecessary to me. We are whole people after all.

        I think about reading books and how we learn about a character through his experiences, relationships and thought processes. It is rare that we read about his accomplishments or failures without knowing what tested him.

      • Anne says:

        (I just got to chat with Whitney last weekend at a conference we were both attending. I’m so happy to see her here in the comments section today. Thanks for sharing that.)

    • Anne says:

      I don’t think we can, which is why it’s so terribly damaging to pursue shrewdness and selfish ambition. What I so admired about our family friend was that she had an impressive resumé, yet her business was built on the eulogy virtues.

  7. Angela Mills says:

    What a lovely way of looking at life. I lost a good friend (she was still young) a few years ago and her memorial service went for hours, so many people wanted to get up and share some wonderful thing she had done for them. You can’t witness something like that without being inspired and blessed. I’m sorry for your loss, your friend sounds like a wonderful person.

  8. Ginger says:

    Good gravy, this is a great post.

    But you know what is also great about this community you’ve created, Anne? The comments (as I know you know). Several things here I’m going to have to think on and mull over and return to again and again:

    “Leave a big hole when you leave.” (The Frugal Girl)
    “Don’t create the bad memories for others.” (Liz N.)
    “Weed out the things we are focusing on that aren’t reflecting the image of God.” (Candice)

    • Loren says:

      As to “Leave a big hole when you leave,” Dwight Eisenhower, who obviously had an outsized impact on our world as the Supreme Allied Commander in WWII, carried this poem with him in his wallet:

      “Take a bucket, fill it with water,
      “Put your hand in – clear up to the wrist.
      “Now pull it out; the hole that remains
      “Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed….

      “The moral of this quaint example:
      “To do just the best that you can,
      “Be proud of yourself, but remember,
      “There is no Indispensable Man!”

  9. Arenda says:

    What an interesting post to ponder!

    And I just have to say that I love that your mom is painting a picture of your first home! It looks so charming – what a wonderful keepsake to have! (It reminds me of the charming homes loved by LM Montgomery’s characters!)

  10. Loren says:

    Brooks has make me think long and hard about resumé virtues and eulogy virtues. I’m turning 55-years old later this year and, putting false modesty aside, I have a lot of resumé virtues. I think I have a fair number of eulogy virtues as well but I don’t like the balance. Frankly, I am done creating more resumé virtues (yes, I’m going to continue to work for another three years or so and will continue to work hard but not with a single-minded uber focus on work — which I have done for 30 years). I am now turning my attention towards eulogy virtues; not for the sake of my eulogy (which I obviously won’t hear) but because of the deeper meaning I will get out of life by focusing on activities that, as a byproduct, create eulogy virtues.

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