Larry wrote me the following letter: “I’ve been a small businessman for almost 23 years in a business where people lie, cheat, and steal. I’m sorry to say I became one of them. In the short term it may have helped, but long term it came back to haunt me. There’s no amount of success that’s worth it. I am now 48 years old. I have lost my good name; my values and my ethics have been destroyed. Is there any way I will ever be able to restore my reputation and lead a life of integrity?”
What a pity that so many people delude themselves into believing that traditional ethical principles like honesty and integrity don’t apply in the business world. They govern their daily decisions by pragmatism – what works – without reference to principles – what’s right. And, piece-by-piece, decision-by-decision, they sell their souls and sully their names until they find themselves naked and alone on the barren wasteland of moral compromise.
The good news is that Larry can start leading a life of integrity immediately. He can redeem himself and become a man of character simply by choosing to be honest, responsible, respectful, caring, and fair.
The bad news is that his reputation will take longer to restore. Character is what you really are; reputation is what people think of you. And since people are more likely to judge us by our last worst act rather than our most virtuous habits, rebuilding a reputation can take years of honorable living.
Still, each phase of one’s life brings new opportunities for learning and growth, and if Larry wants it badly enough, the best part of his life is ahead.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.