Character & Capability

The chart below presents two universal tendencies that impact how rewarding and fulfilling our lives will be. Evaluating where you and others fall on the grid can reveal valuable insights into yourself and every other individual you know

(Average reading time 180 seconds)

Character ratings on the grid increase from left to right and capability ratings ascend from bottom to top, both on a 10 point scale. Theoretically each one of us could be assigned a character coordinate and a capability coordinate that together would represent a point on the grid where we would fall.

Let’s start with character. Where would you place yourself on the 0 to10 character scale?

I find this to be an important evaluation to ask personally because the evidence of history, psychological studies and personal experience leads me to this conclusion: “Bad people finish last, always!” No matter how much wealth, power or public acclaim they acquire, the truly evil suffer their entire lives in a dank miserable mental pit. I want to do my best not to be a bad guy.

Conversely, the happiest people are on the right side of the chart. All other things being equal, the higher your character, the happier you will be. It’s actually good for you, you might even say it’s selfish, to be a person of high character.

Because of that I do try and move myself and encourage others to keep moving further to the right side on the Character scale. And that doesn’t necessarily involve a major initiative.  It is more about making the little character decisions better every day. Returning the extra dollar you were mistakenly given in change, not getting angry too often, following through on commitments you make to friends, family or co-workers more consistently, or not lying just because it is for the moment easier than explaining.

When you do these things, you not only move up on the character scale, you are encouraging others to do so as well. And you’ll be happier for it. Doing the right thing when these smaller character choices present themselves prepares us and strengthens our wills to make the big character choices the right way. That’s important as one major character choice made the wrong way can throw us into the dark side, potentially destroying much of the happiness we have created over a lifetime.

A similar evaluation can be done about your capabilities. Where do you score yourself from 0 to 10 in capability? Where would you like to fall? What are you going to do to raise your capabilities to that point? Upgrade your technical skills? Seek out a mentor? Act on taking advantage of training or a training budget offered by your company? What about committing 30 minutes a day to researching and practicing one subject. Doing that can make you an expert in less than a year, whether it’s a foreign language or an advanced technical skill. We certainly can progress up on the capability scale and doing so tends to increase our happiness and well-being.

Character and Capability Insights Into Others

To illustrate some of the potential reveals about others check out the four extreme corner descriptions on the grid. For example the bottom left (0,0) – Totally Bad, Totally Incompetent. Briefly take a look at the other corner descriptions. Which coordinate would reflect the most dangerous traits for someone you were depending on to have? On the other hand, which coordinate or quadrant would reflect the best characteristics for a key person in your life to demonstrate.

Only a tiny handful of people, if any, fall on the coordinates at the four extreme points. Everyone else falls in-between; not black or white, but varying shades of gray. Would it be of value in evaluating a business associate, a personal relationship or a leader to be able to determine, fairly accurately, where they scored on character?

Sure it would. After you’ve known someone awhile, classifying his or her ethical tendencies or direction is much easier. Here’s how:

Look at the dark line that runs from top to bottom down the center of the grid above. This is a 5, the midpoint, and represents someone who is average on the Character scale. If a person operates more on the right side of the mid-line they are more Gray to White. They tend towards being a good person. If they operate more on the left side of the grid, they are more Gray to Black, and tend towards being a bad person.

Try using this evaluation method right now. Mentally go through a handful of individuals you know and identify whether you think they are ethically

               More Gray to White…  

                             …or more Gray to Black?

Really do this now. Ask yourself the Gray to Black, Gray to White question about a co-worker, or vendor you buy from, or a friend. Think about the individuals you associate with that have the most impact on your present and future happiness and success. Where does each of them fall? Can you think of someone you’ve known that falls into each category?

Relationships with people that are grey to black pose a greater risk to your happiness and well-being than relationships with individuals who are grey to white. Because of that, if you conclude a person is primarily grey to black, and you can’t influence them to change, you should consider finding a way to distance yourself or end the relationship.

On the positive side I expect that most of the people in your life tend more to the good guy, gray to white range. They have the highest potential from a character point of view to add to your Achievement and Enjoyment in life either personally, professionally or both. Given similar capabilities and how important an impact they can have on your life, and you on theirs…invest in the good guys and gals.

Remember, improving the world starts with improving ourselves. The surest way to upgrade our lot in life is to keep moving in the right direction on both Character and Capability. Strive to be well above average on both points, putting yourself into the upper right quadrant – High Character and High Capability. Doing so benefits you and all those around you.

Here’s to making good things happen for yourself and those you care about in 2021.



“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.”

“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

“There is nothing permanent except change.”

Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 BC – c. 475 BC) was an Ancient Greek philosopher.




The depth of your life encounters is determined by the depth of your attention. Focus on your Activity of the Moment (AM)) and Person of the Moment (PM) to make the most of all you experience.