Cam Taylor

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Crooked Timber

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” — Immanuel Kant
This week, I started reading a book a colleague of mine recommended called, “The Road to Character” by David Brooks. It’s a thoughtful look at what the road to character looks like. The idea of being “crooked timber” has caught my attention. Who me?
“People in this ‘crooked-timber’ school of humanity have an acute awareness of their own flaws and believe that character is built in the struggle against their own weaknesses.” — David Brooks
What I’m finding in life is that I keep bumping into my limitations, flaws, mistakes, gaps in where I am compared to where I want to be. That journey I’m learning on a daily basis how necessary the struggle is to become the person I truly want to be who lives life from the inside out.
I embrace my “crooked timber” humanity when I catch myself obsessed with external success and achieving results. At times I put too much stock in landing a contract, nailing it at a training event, skillfully coaching a leader, or writing a blog post that gets lots of likes. External results matter, don’t get me wrong, but when my worth and meaning is all “out there,” it won’t last.
I’m reminded again as I read and reflect on my own vulnerability that I must continue being diligent to take a little time every day to reflect on my mistakes, unloving deeds, and core sins so I can make the deeper changes necessary to keep being the person I want to become. I also put high value on the community of other “crooked timbers” who are equally keen on character growth like I am.
“People who live this way believe that character is not innate or automatic. You have to build it with effort and artistry. You can’t be the good person you want to be unless you wage this campaign.” — David Brooks
“Souls are like athletes that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers.” — Thomas Merton
What I keep coming back to is the need to measure success not only by external results but by the internal refining and sharpening process that is taking place. Only then will I live a life of humility, integrity and deeper love. How I finish matters and depends on how I run the race day every single day.
What does being a person of character look like to you?

About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

2 Replies

  1. Thanks Cam for sharing that. I found it to be right on and I so would like to read that Book. John Wesley reportedly said, Oh lord give us revival without the defects, but if can’t have it without the defects, we must have revival. Even the greatest of leaders like Wesley himself begin as twisted lumber. When you make something out of say Maple and you want it to stay straight and never warp you cut it in strips and reglue the strips back together reversing the grain each time. This way the natural tendency to follow the grain of the wood is defeated. Perhaps we need to be glued together.

    1. Thanks Jack for your reference to Wesley. Interesting insight into how they get maple to stay straight! I think there is a lesson there for us about the importance of an outside ingredient that does hold us together.

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