INTEGRITY - Embrace it in 2010 (and beyond)

Integrity: Honesty; Sincerity; Uprightness
(Thorndike-Barnhart Dictionary)

Integrity: Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

Rarely do I hear people discuss or use the word integrity and it’s not popular on TV either. Whether it’s an investment banker on Wall Street, the common man on Main Street or a famous person (i.e. Tiger Woods), talking about integrity seems to be off the radar screen or often on the backburner. This is not a good thing as we’re just beginning a challenging decade that was preceded by ten years of frequent evil, greed, tragedy, foolishness and lack of compassion.

Jeff Immelt (General Electric CEO) said this about the era of greed:

"We are at the end of a difficult generation of business leadership, and maybe leadership in general. Tough-mindedness, a good trait, was replaced by meanness and greed, both terrible traits," the head of the largest U.S. conglomerate said in prepared remarks to be delivered at the U.S. Military Academy.

"Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability," Immelt said. "In too many situations, leaders divided us instead of bringing us together."

The financial crisis of the past 18 months, which hammered the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company's results and last March briefly pushed its shares to 18-year lows, has changed Immelt's approach to running the world's biggest maker of jet engines and electricity-producing turbines, he said.

"I decided that I needed to be a better listener coming out of the crisis," Immelt said. "I felt like I should have done more to anticipate the radical changes that occurred."

Unfortunately, some people I know have had their integrity challenged or shown blatant disregard for it or simply didn’t care about it. Below is a portion of what I’ve listened to or experienced in the last decade:

A person who is frequently mean or evil in business – never caring about anyone else. Very nice outside of work but changes dramatically when it comes to business.

An acquaintance that was married and had a baby with another woman.

A spouse who is consistently disrespected by the other half in public and private. Both have integrity issues.

A person in my family who often tries to take advantage of others including many of our family members. One of the most selfish people I know.

A good friend who could never come to grips with his goals or desires in life. This person has needlessly wasted at least a decade of his life and has shown very few signs of wanting to improve.

An acquaintance who values money more than almost anything else.

A good friend who lost the woman of his dreams because he lacked sincerity while they were dating. The woman told me that he had a chance with her.

It’s important to keep in mind that most people who make up my inner circle have displayed a high level of integrity and for that I am grateful. Some have sought my help with their inner battles and my advice has often helped although with others integrity remains a worthy adversary. I will always do my best to help those who struggle with integrity in any way that I can. That’s what friends are for.

In my opinion, the scandals of celebrities like David Letterman receive an inordinate amount of media coverage. It’s understandable due to the celebrity obsessed world in which we live. The superficial coverage bores me especially the “OJ Simpson” type coverage that the Tiger Woods scandal generated. Thankfully, "Tiger Watch" has dwindled considerably and I don’t think many people miss it.

Maybe the media should focus on the integrity of celebrities and how their transgressions may affect the mindset of the general public. That is a much more interesting story for me to read. In addition, I hope the majority of people are smart enough to not think less of the common man because of the actions of a few misguided celebrities although since the year began, some people have tested my faith in that hope.

In the past six months, I’ve been surprised by some of the derogatory comments about men in general because of Tiger Woods as well as talk of never using the products he endorsed. One person who complained to me was highly educated and very serious in her disdain for Tiger. I still wonder why she would waste her mind and time being frustrated by a celebrity who has zero impact on her life.

Keeping one’s integrity at a high level allows one to focus on desires, dreams and goals without the worry of having the world crumble due to irresponsible or ill advised actions. Life is challenging enough with a solid integrity so there is no need to add fuel to life’s inevitable fires.

Also, we may not think much about the word sincerity when it comes to integrity although it can be damaging when a person is not authentic or tries to be someone they are not. As I mentioned earlier, my friend lost an amazing woman due to his insincere nature while dating her. Being sincere is extremely important in order to maximize the opportunities in life.

Many of us will struggle to a degree with integrity at some point in our lives, especially when no one is looking, when we think we can get away with it or when we make decisions based only on emotion. In addition, some still think there is an easy path to fame or fortune by being foolish, short-sighted or just plain greedy.

In those moments of weakness, we should think about our families, mentors and/or the lessons that we learned in childhood. Most of the aforementioned people have good hearts but chose to disregard their values or were vulnerable to the many temptations that swarm around us. Some will endure a lifetime of pain if they don’t muster the courage to change.

A well-connected and extremely successful lawyer from America was asked on TV how he was able to prosper effortlessly in both the white dominated business world and the black civil rights movement. I thought it was an insightful question as I don’t know anyone who has succeeded so brilliantly in two vastly different worlds.

The lawyer answered the question with one word……………..INTEGRITY.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

June 6, 2010 - Sweden's "National Day"

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