Good days are the material of a good life

The Art of Manliness just concluded an excellent, in-depth series on Winston Churchill, The Churchill School of Adulthood.

What a remarkable life. Churchill was THE linchpin in keeping the free world free in the darkest years of the twentieth century. And he was arguably the authentic and original most interesting man in the world. Scholar, prolific author, adventurer, humorist, iconic orator. With his incredible intellectual depth and transparent, colorful personality, he defied the stereotype many hold of politicians.

In the last post in this web series, there’s this quote from Churchill:

“Every night,” he said, “I try myself by court martial to see if I have done anything effective during the day. I don’t mean just pawing the ground — anyone can go through the motions — but something really effective.”

This is much like Benjamin Franklin who began each day by asking himself “What good shall I do this day?” and ended each night with “What good have I done today?”

I don’t need to have accomplished big, Churchillian things in a day. But I do want to have been intentional about doing something meaningful, even a small thing. A genuine connection with someone, a memorable conversation, an act of kindness. Making something or moving a valued endeavor a little further toward completion.

If I can get to the end of a day with something to look back on with satisfaction, it’s a good day. Good days strung together more often than lost days will ultimately lead to a good life.

Churchill’s life was epic. I don’t need an epic life. Yet taking stock at the end of each day and holding myself to a standard of quality, like Churchill and Franklin did, can point me more effectively toward the good life I do aspire to lead.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” –Annie Dillard