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“The right goals are not money, power, pleasure, and fame… those are instrumental goals that lead to the less earthbound ultimate goals. The intrinsic goals should be faith, family, friendship, and work in which you earn your success and serve other people.”
– Arthur Brooks
Brooks highlights the life of Johann Sebastian Bach to illustrate the transitional phase from fluid intelligence to crystallized intelligence. A musical genius and composer of the 17th and 18th centuries, Bach was prolific at an early age, raking in vast sums of commissions and innovating the music scene on a grand scale. But then “he lost his ability to innovate… the reason is because his fluid intelligence was in the cellar. By that point, he jumped onto his second curve by becoming the most respected and beloved teacher of his time,” Brooks observes.
The classical liberal experiment, he argues, has expanded the choices available to individuals and fostered a greater space for moral and spiritual flourishing. “You’re not a good classical liberal unless you’re taking care of your relationships and tending to your morality,” he says. “Self-improvement is the science of happiness administered at the individual level in a classical liberal society.”
If the transition into a new stage of life seems to be intractable, Brooks presents a hopeful case that challenges this assertion. He notes that, although overwhelming at times, a transitional period in one’s life heightens your level of creativity and perceptiveness to new opportunities.
“The space between the status quo and the uncertain future stages are when you are most creative and poised to make major improvements.” Instead of fearing these moments, he argues, we should embrace them and let the tide of change sweep us into a better, healthier, and happier life.IHS strives to bring together scholars and intellectuals like Arthur Brooks who share an interest in advancing the principles and practice of a free society. To learn more about our network of scholars, as well as our wide range of programs, visit

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