How to Live a Richer Life and Build Community: A Conversation with David Brooks | CU Boulder today

Chancellor Philip DiStefano, David Brooks and Allie Reuter, UC Boulder Senior Class Council President, during a video call

Whether dealing with a personal crisis or a nation in turmoil, bestselling author and social commentator David Brooks shared stories about himself interspersed with bits of wisdom learned from others during his conversation. with Chancellor Philip DiStefano this week.

The Center for Leadership hosted Brooks as the featured speaker for the fifth annual Leo Hill Leadership Lecture Series. This year, more than 4,500 people from across the country called to attend this remote event, intended to highlight the importance of moral character and social responsibility.

David brooks

David brooks

Prior to the event, Brooks took time to chat with CU Boulder students involved in a variety of campus leadership programs. Brooks said he had never seen a generation so “morally passionate, sometimes too morally passionate”.

Here are some key points to remember:

Find your purpose in life

  • Divide your life into chapters and set goals for, say, the next three years. The happiest people evaluate their lives and interests, set goals, and try new things that turn them on. “The most unhappy people lead everyday life …”
  • Think about what is really beautiful for you. What do you do when you lose track of time completely? Do more of that.
  • Ask yourself: What is life asking of me and what are the issues that I am particularly suited to serve in relation to what I want to do with my life?
  • Distinguish happiness from joy. Joy comes when you forget yourself, when you dance with friends, when you are a teacher and you see a student achieve something that they have never achieved before. Sometimes aim for happiness, but joy is better.

Slow down

  • Don’t allow yourself to be so busy that you waste time on personal reflection and on the things and people that matter to you.
  • If you receive a big prize, reward, or giant raise and it doesn’t make you happy or cheerful, find out why and make some course corrections in your life.

Visit the Center for Leadership to learn more about leadership at CU Boulder. A recording and transcript of Brooks’ lecture will soon be available on the website.


  • As one of the University of Chicago professors at Brooks said: If you read in-depth books carefully, you will find the keys to life.
  • Read Jane Austen for more on love, relationships, and marriage, especially if you resist dating. Marriage is one of the most important decisions you will make.
  • Use social media wisely. Set usage limits. Build relationships around common interests.

Be kind, be a weaver

  • Ask yourself, am I alone? If the answer is “Yes” you are not alone. Take steps to connect with others, especially those who are different from you in places you rarely go. Join a reading group. Dine with friends.
  • You don’t have to be rich and famous to be a trusted and valued person in your community. Be kind. Help others. Be vulnerable.
  • Reject the culture of individualism.

Discover the Brooks “weaver” movement. (Weave: The social fabric project is an initiative within the Aspen Institute founded by Brooks that focuses on shifting the American mindset from hyperindividualism and personal success to relationshipalism, which places relationships at the center of our lives).

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