Wes Moore, a Johns Hopkins graduate, Rhodes Scholar, and former White House Fellow; a Wall Street executive, Afghanistan veteran, and social entrepreneur, presents his latest book — a second memoir — exploring the path to finding meaningful work and transcending "ordinary." (Wes Moore © Amun Ankhra)
Moore, who grew up poor in Baltimore and the Bronx, chronicles his childhood in his first memoir, "The Other Wes Moore." The book also contrasts Moore’s life trajectory with another young man by the very same name, who follows a very different path and ends up serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder.
Through anecdotes and thoughtful analysis, Moore examines how environment shapes your path and contributes to your destiny, but "the other Wes Moore" helps him to see how it is often expectations, more than environments, that really make the difference. Others' expectations of us, whether high or low, morph into our expectations of ourselves, and that in turn informs our attitudes and achievements. Moore says, "I honestly think that the most dangerous gap we have in our society is the expectation gap. We expect different things from different people, and that's amazingly dangerous."
In "The Work," Moore chronicles his life after college, starting with his experience overseas as a Rhodes Scholar, and carrying through to other major career decisions and life moments. Not surprisingly, Moore's time as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan was especially pivotal. He describes surviving a firefight and how it made him ask himself important questions in a way he had not before: "When you find yourself clutching on to life like it’s the only thing that matters — because suddenly you realize it is — you start to ask other questions too. Why does my life matter?"
This essential question, Moore says, "hit me and wouldn’t let me go. Eventually I started to piece together the lessons of my own life and the lives of the people who inspired me most, and I started to answer it."
One of the most significant people in Moore's life was his grandfather, whom he describes as a man who "carried [him] through [his] childhood and teen years and into adulthood." In his personal exploration, Moore returned to his grandfather’s lessons, gifted through a life lived humbly, confidently, and purposefully. Moore found his answer in his grandfather's own fundamental question: "Who will you fight for and stand with — shoulder to shoulder — when it's not easy or popular or convenient? Who will you stand with when it might just be you two because it’s the right thing to do?"
Moore counsels that "finding your work, and finding where your greatest joys and passions overlap with the world’s greatest needs" will lead you to your greatest joy and your greatest sense of understanding your place. He quotes the theologian Howard Thurman, who said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who come alive."