What We Can All Learn About Character From Great Admirals in History

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tags: military history, naval history

Admiral Stavridis (Ret.) was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and is an Operating Executive at The Carlyle Group.


In Sailing True North: Lessons of Character from Ten Admirals I examine the lives of ten admirals whose careers stretch across 2,500 years of history and try to illuminate the most essential qualities of character so that each of us can chart a course toward becoming the best we can possibly be within our own lives.

In this post-modern era that we are witnessing the slow death of character. Driven by a popular culture globally that has turned increasingly away from classic values – honesty, commitment, resilience, accountability, moderation – to a world that moves at breakneck speed and refuses to slow down and consider what is right and just. One abiding characteristic of most of the ten admirals in my book is that they were thoughtful, intellectually grounded individuals. Perhaps the long periods at sea that almost all of them experienced have something to do with that. These admirals teach us that finding sufficient time to think and reflect is a crucial part of building character.

It is said that character is what you do when you think no one is looking – but in today’s world, someone is always looking. We have lost the ability to hone our character in private, and our lives are “on display” seemingly from the moment we are born. We “over share” publicly and under reflect privately on what our individual voyages mean.

I set out to tell a different set of stories than those that we see repeated again and again on cable news. Because I am a sailor myself, I turned to ten illustrious, interesting, and highly varied naval leaders. Each of them led across decades and in different centuries and locales; their stories are different, and their characters were shaped in dramatically varied circumstances. Therefore, the lessons to be drawn of their character – are richly distributed. And not all are entirely heroic.


Read entire article at Time

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