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Traits and values

Back in the 1950s, at the Caney Fork River Boy Scout camp in middle Tennessee, I learned four basic swimming strokes: breast, side, back and freestyle. What wonderful preparation for life that was. Like riding a bike, those four strokes come back to you if and when you need them.

I read a speech recently by Torstein Hagen, Norwegian billionaire and chairman of Viking Cruises, in which he credited his mother, as he grew up in a little red house on the edge of a large forest in Nittedal, Norway, for instilling in his sister and him three traits that she promised would serve them well for a lifetime. “You can always be kind, honest and hardworking.”

Hagen, crediting his mother profusely, said that as an adult he has added a fourth to her list: “Be curious.” Sometimes good things come in fours.

I was taught, growing up, to beware of curiosity because curiosity “killed the cat.” I think that meant something like “Mind your own business” or “Don’t be too nosy” or “Don’t ask too many questions.” Torstein Hagen went against that conventional wisdom and bought a fleet of ocean ships to feed peoples’ curiosity. Curiosity leads to travel, as it moved old Norwegian and European explorers to seek and find new countries and discover new continents. It leads scientists today to discover new vaccines that intercept coronaviruses.

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

What are the four legs of your values chair? Can you improve on kindness, honesty, hard work and curiosity? I hope you seek a balanced life, founded on solid rock pillars instead of shifting sands.

St. Paul’s three-legged stool of faith, hope and love might make a worthy alternative.