DEMOCRITUS • Character

c. 460 – c. 370 BC | Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher. Democritus was considered by many as the “father of modern science.” Major contribution: atomic theory of the universe.

Be your own umpire. When you screw up, be quick to throw a flag or call a foul on yourself. 

In Democritus’ treatise on “Character,” the pre-socratic philosopher writes:

Imitate a good person;
More people become good through practice than by nature;
Do not say or do what is degrading, even when you are alone;
Learn to feel shame in your own eyes much more than before others.

Three takeaways:

  • First, imitation isn’t just the highest form of flattery, it’s a shortcut to learning. Good character comes by imitating good character; it’s not a question of being born a certain way. Think of a person you highly respect—adopt some of that person’s behaviors.
  • Second, commit to act in a certain way, whether in public or private.
  • Third, when you mess up, be your own umpire. Don’t wait to be called out on it by others. Character building is a test against yourself.