Wes Moore on Work, War, and Expectations

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Wes Moore talks to the host of Politics and Prose on Monday evening

 by Bryan Park

Wes Moore was fresh out of college and riding home from his finance work late one evening when a song by Lauryn Hill began playing on his IPod. The lyrics of the song were about self-discovery and identity, something that Moore had struggled to understand after graduation.

“That’s when I knew I was protected by a shield, and that shield was a business card,” Moore said. “And that shield began to wither under [Lauryn Hill’s] words.

Moore, the 36-year-old author of The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters, recounts many of the struggles he faced throughout his life in his latest autobiography. Moore spoke to a crowd of nearly 50 attendees at the Politics and Prose bookstore on a Monday evening, where he took on questions about his various experiences with work, war and youth.

Moore, who is an author, U.S. Army veteran, public speaker, host for MSNBC and is currently the host of “Beyond Belief” on the Oprah Network, said that the inspiration for writing the book came after he spoke to the man with a similar name, who was the subject of his previous best-selling work, The Other Wes Moore.

The other Wes Moore told the author to write a story about his success. Moore said he wasn’t sure what success was supposed to mean during then, and what success was supposed to look like. The answer was something that came from the different experiences he faced during his life, according to Moore.

Moore said that he stopped working as a banker because he felt unfulfilled in finding purpose in his work. While Moore was making more than his grandparents ever made, he still felt he was inexperienced. He knew he had to leave finance, or continue to suffer from a lack of fulfillment.

After overstaying in a job that you don’t like or enjoy, you become extraordinarily ordinary, said Moore.

Moore said that people began to give him advice in finding work, and he said it was extremely important to listen to these voices.

“But that journey and process has got to be your own,” Moore said. ”Because if you start living the life of somebody else, you’re never going to be great.”

Moore strongly stressed that it is important for individuals to seek careers that they not only like, but feel are the most beneficial to others. If you were to do something that you are not supposed to, there is nothing interesting about you and you will only fall in to the pack, according to Moore.

“The way I define The Work, is when your greatest passions and gifts begin to start overlapping with the world’s greatest needs and you chose to do something about that.”

Moore also spoke about his military experience during his deployment to Afghanistan in 1996, a topic that is prominent in his new book, and how the subsequent 9/11 attacks affected him as a veteran. Moore said he was not involved in any combat during his tours in the Middle East, and that weighed heavily on his soul when soldiers were later sent off to fight the war on terror.

Moore said that his book included many things about his deployment and return from military service, and how it shaped his views of veterans in the U.S.

Moore also spoke about American Sniper, a controversial film and book about Chris Kyle, a U.S. Navy Seal who served in Afghanistan. Moore said that while Kyle did not use the best politically correct language, he thought the soldier did an incredible job of describing the atmosphere of war and coming back home.

“Chris did a remarkable job of showing that level of utter chaos and confusion that takes place not just in theater, but also at home,” Moore said.

Moore attributed his understanding of fellow veterans due to his own service, and said that the nation should work towards helping men and women who have served in the military.

Moore also personally spoke with several black teens in the audience, talking about the importance of never seeing yourself as an imposter and always accepting your own successes.

“No matter what room you are in, you belong there,” Moore said. “What got you there wasn’t someone benevolence. What got you there is because you busted your tail.”

Moore concluded the event by taking a few questions from the audience, and signing copies of his book.

Before closing, he made a final remark what he discovered while writing his book.

“My goal is impact. My goal is problem solving,” Moore said. “My goal is to not hide behind my shield.”

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