One fine blue day in the ocean, Jellyfish was floating through the water, propelling himself with his tentacles. He did not have a fancy backbone or fins like the fishes in the sea, and felt rather limited by his own form of movement.
Nevertheless, he drifted around quite effectively, working with the currents to always get where he was going.
When twilight fell, he happened to float by Sponge—the longest-living creature in the ocean. Sponge was more than 1,000 years old and always oozed out his wisdom, while other creatures took in his advice.
And as usual, Sponge was secreting sage words to the fish that hovered around him, stopping and using their backbone to sway gently back and forth and stay in one place.
Sponge declared, “Character is everything! Humans sometimes call it having a backbone.” He gurgled ruefully. “Of course, some of us have character without a backbone.” And all the fish bubbled in laughter.
Jellyfish was stunned—he wanted a “character” type of backbone if he couldn’t have a real backbone himself. He knew exactly who to ask about character: the only writer in the ocean, which was Octopus (he was the only one with ink). He was writing about characters all the time.
Once Jellyfish asked Octopus how he could have backbone—or character—Octopus explained the concept with a smile and gestured with his eight tentacles.
“Oh yes, oh yes….It’s true,” he said, in his quick speech that flipped through the waves as quickly as his arms. “You can have character in this way. Sponge was talking about having character in life. How can you get it, you ask? Why is it everything?”
Jellyfish did not have eyes, but he felt himself blink, for Octopus knew his questions before he asked them.
Octopus continued, “Finding your character is not a destination, like reaching the other end of the ocean. You have character now—you’re a good jellyfish. You will become an even better jellyfish as you swim through even more waves, and by the end of your life, you will have even more.”
Jellyfish did an internal blink again. He thought he understood what Octopus meant. It was enough to know that even in his current form, and even though he had no backbone, he already had formed character.
MORAL: Character is what you become…and for good creatures, what you are while becoming it.