book hack

The Second Mountain

David Brooks

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

The Second Mountain argues that a meaningful, fulfilling, and happy life is not found in the pursuit of self-improvement but instead in service to others.


The Second Mountain

The Second Mountain

by David Brooks


In the 2016 movie Doctor Strange, the main character is a surgeon. Having his hands mangled by a terrible car accident, he is unable to perform surgery again. That is, until he discovers sorcery. Partway through his journey to learn the strange new art of magic, his mentor gives him this wise advice: "It's not about you." At this point in the movie, Strange has a choice to make.

He can either use his newfound abilities to help save the world or squander them on keeping his hands healed so he can continue to do surgery. Strange cannot do both. Fortunately for half of humanity, he decides to choose the higher path and become a superhero.

Fictional characters aside, we have the same choice to make. Will we choose to use our innate talents and skills to ascend our own mountain of success? Or might we instead give our lives in service to others, climbing a different, better mountain instead? Offering yourself for a better cause is exactly the idea that David Brooks teaches in his book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. After reading this, you may rethink your goal of rising to the top of the ladder of material wealth.

Favorite quote

We think we want ease and comfort, and of course we do from time to time, but there is something inside us that longs for some calling that requires dedication and sacrifice.

- David Brooks

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