Why You'll Win In The End If You Make Character Your Career

It doesn't matter what you're doing. What matters is the person you are becoming

  • Justin Zoradi
Why You'll Win In The End If You Make Character Your Career

I have a lot of conversations with people worried about what they do. Worried they aren’t making an impact. Worried their life isn’t panning out the way they expected.

But I know for a fact that the person you are becoming is far more important than the work you are doing.

This isn’t just my spirituality talking either. I believe good character creates sustainable success.

I'll avoid trying to define character and say it like this:

You might have the most impressive ideas and work ethic in the world, but I don’t think you’ll be truly successful until you can get a handful of people around your kitchen table to say they trust you. Because regardless of our personal ambition, we need others to help us reach our full potential. No man is an island.

There is a reason why Dumbledore and Gandalf chose the heroes they did to save the world.

Harry and Frodo were brave, humble, and trustworthy, but they also had friends who would follow them to the ends of the earth.

When I was 24, I started These Numbers Have Faces from the couch of my apartment. Back then it was a tiny dream to help a few South African friends attend college. The early success of our work hinged on the fact that people trusted us. They trusted our vision and they trusted us with their money. Not sure where it came from, but it’s the truth.

And as we’ve grown and evolved, one thing has stayed the same. Character counts. My team and I have continued to rally people around our vision because of the work we do, but also because of the people we are.

Seth Godin wrote a great little book called Tribes that aims to inspire new leaders to build tribes of people to accomplish great things. The tagline of the book is, “we need you to lead us.” I love that.

If you have a good idea or vision of any kind, we desperately need you to lead us. But I’m not going to follow unless there is something in you that I trust.

I believe the impact of people who are disingenuous and narcissistic is fleeting. Eventually your demons come out. (Click to Tweet)

Remember: Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you.

Focus on your character. It’s the foundation for everything we do. Form a tight knit circle of people around you. The good work will flow from there.


Photo Credit:
Donna Gingrich Amish Country News

Sign Up Today and Let's Journey Together

Get ideas, tips, and updates on doing work that matters with lasting impact

Fill out my online form.

Comments (15)

  • Larry Rutledge

    Larry Rutledge

    19 June 2012 at 16:58 |
    Another great, encouraging post. Truly character is the key to success in all areas of life.

    I've always heard the descriptions of character as things like: "Character is defined by who you are when no one is looking". But I wanted to see if there was more, so I just now did a quick check in an etymology dictionary and found something very interesting:

    Character is derived from the Greek word charakter, ???????? (a graver (the tool or the person); engraving (('character'), the figure stamped; an exact copy or representation))

    We are defined by who we truly are (who we are when no one is looking) ... our "character" represents that thing we wish to represent.

    "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45 (ESV)

    We put into our heart (engrave) what we admire, what we desire for ourself. And what we store in our heart, what we "engrave" our heart to pattern after, that is what will come out of us.

    You want people to believe in you, in your work, in your call; to support you and stand by you? Then you MUST engrave your heart after that thing which represents who you truly want to be. People are drawn to an honest, open, and righteous heart.

    Thanks for another thought provoking and soul challenging post. Look forward to many more.
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    19 June 2012 at 20:33 |
    Thanks Larry! You're my most prolific reader and commenter! Appreciate your words of encouragement.

    Great stuff too about the greek meaning of Character. awesome. Thanks
  • Hugh McDevitt

    Hugh McDevitt

    20 June 2012 at 17:37 |
    I can see two sides of this issue. On the one hand (agreeing): on my way into work this morning, our local Christian radio station played a song whose lyrics were based on I Corinthians 13: 1-3. If I don't have love, I am a noisy gong or a clashing cymbal. Too many times in my walk with Christ, I do things that may look good, but are done with selfish motives, like ego.

    On the other hand, life to me is a lot about developing good habits. If I can do good things and keep doing good things, even with the wrong intent, I hope that that the worthiness of the deeds will penetrate my thick skull and heart and produce the good intents. Also, God can take anything I do, even if it is done with selfish intents and use it for his glory.
  • Lesley


    20 June 2012 at 17:49 |
    Really good stuff JZ. I know that both Jonathan and I have loved watching you turn into the leader you are today.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      20 June 2012 at 17:54 |
      Thanks Lesley. That means so much. I really appreciate your support.
  • Jesse Mojica

    Jesse Mojica

    20 June 2012 at 18:00 |
    I remember a year ago when I sat across from you and you laid it out straight for me. I needed to stay still. I needed to take care of myself. I needed to find a community and I needed to stick with it.
    You didn't tell me I needed to let God in, but it was laced in there.
    A year later I've not only healed into but thrived inside a beautiful community and have embraced this beautiful rainy city as my home.
    And it was about character all along.
    And Jesus, it was mostly about him.
    Thanks for always being honest when I needed to hear the hard stuff the most. This post just reminds me how far things have come.
    Wonderful writing, as always, keep going!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      20 June 2012 at 18:11 |
      Awesome Jesse. Really appreciate this. I'm not gonna lie, it was obvious to me that God had a vision for you as soon as you started at TNHF. I could sense there was something beneath all those layers. Thanks for staying in PDX, letting Jesus in, and surrounding yourself with others. Appreciate you.
  • melissa De Soto

    melissa De Soto

    21 June 2012 at 02:14 |
    Steve Saccone talks about this on p. 162, Relational Intelligence, as "Rapid Trust Formation". I love how he states, "At the core of relational intelligence is cultivating healthy quality relationships. Relational geniuses know how to engage with others through intelligence, intentionality, and authentic love that strives to serve others more than self. It's better to invest in a few who will invest in others than invest in many who may never invest in anyone. Then people around you will do the same as they emulate your leadership example. This is the way of a relational genius & a new way of being smart." The question is, what principles are your character based on? Christ is our ultimate example of what true character is based on.
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    21 June 2012 at 03:29 |
    Great comment Melissa. Thank you. This only solidifies my absolute need to start studying Saccone more. Brilliant stuff. Thank you.
  • Chris


    21 June 2012 at 04:09 |
    Love it. Love you. Loved our time together today. I trust you, and love following you into where God is leading you, and your work. I pray that you'll continue to boldly and courageously become the person that God has so wonderfully designed you to be.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      21 June 2012 at 04:44 |
      Thanks man. Our time was epic today. Thanks for your kind words. I'm really really bummed you're leaving now.
  • Joe Bunting

    Joe Bunting

    22 June 2012 at 12:40 |
    Good gut check, Justin. I spend a lot of time thinking about the work I'm doing. I also spend a lot of time thinking about how people PERCEIVE the work I'm doing. I need to self-reflect more.
  • Justin Zoradi

    Justin Zoradi

    22 June 2012 at 18:08 |
    Thanks Joe! Appreciate it man.
  • Heidi


    02 July 2012 at 23:27 |
    Good post Justin! I think it's true regardless of what you believe spiritually, that you must build yourself & grow. Sometimes as an atheist people ask what I believe in, and how I know what's right - and it's that people know good & strive to be good. Each action you take to help someone, helps you in return. It builds you, and it builds your ability to help, and it builds the world we should have, bit by bit. TNHF & your story is one of the more inspirational things I know. Keep on doing good(and reminding others that it's worth doing)!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      02 July 2012 at 23:39 |
      Thanks Heidi! Love your comment. I agree, each action builds toward something bigger and bigger. Thank you for your kind words!

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest. Optional login below.

About Justin

I believe ordinary people have great power to impact others. I want to help you do work that matters. Learn More

Get My New Book

Download Doing Work That Matters for FREE! PICK IT UP HERE