Economic or Character Crisis?

Stressed Over MoneyAre we facing MOSTLY an economic crisis or a character crisis right now? I wonder!

Undoubtedly the economy is a mess. But wasn’t it the greed, arrogance and self-absorption on wall street along with the get-rich-quick mindset, greed and selfishness on main street that got us here.

And, as people are responding now, don’t we see fundamentally a response that flows from character or lack of it?

Think about it… fear, blaming others, denial, worry, dishonesty, inappropriate anger (I think there is plenty of good anger needed right now)?

And the biggest issue to me.. how do we start to make adjustments based on good character.. taking responsibility, kicking in the work ethic, caring for others in need, being generous, providing positive solutions, etc.

What do you think?

What is YOUR Code of Ethics?

Socrates once said, “you’ll never know a line is crooked unless you have a straight line to put next to it.” And, we have increasingly lost our “straight lines” in our culture. This needs to drive us to be clear about what our absolutes and non-negotiable values are. And, a great way to do this is to write up and then live out a code of ethics. I recently came across the Harvard Business School MBA Code of Ethics. This code developed and promoted by students and graduates of the school to promote “straight lines” is intriguing and helpful. As a business leader I recognize my role in society.

  • My purpose is to lead people and manage resources to create value that no single individual can create alone.
  • My decisions affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and tomorrow.

Therefore, I promise that:

  • I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.
  • I will understand and uphold, in letter and spirit, the laws and contracts governing my conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will refrain from corruption, unfair competition, or business practices harmful to society.
  • I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation.
  • I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet.
  • I will report the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.

In exercising my professional duties according to these principles, I recognize that my behavior must set an example of integrity, eliciting trust and esteem from those I serve. I will remain accountable to my peers and to society for my actions and for upholding these standards. This oath I make freely, and upon my honor. What do you think of this and what other examples of great Codes of Ethics have you come across?

How do we become Stupid?

“How STUPID” was the comment my wife and I simultaneously uttered last night while watching the news report of Republican congressman Chris Lee resigning after his shirtless Craigslist post.

The reporter said, “Republican politician resigns after woman’s web search reveals ‘fit fun classy guy’ posing as divorcee to be in fact married with a son.”

You probably know the story by now. Our response of “how stupid” resulted from the disconnect. After all, how could a powerful, second-term US Congressman do something so wreckless and, yes, stupid?

He has a wife and son and was a rising star in the Republican Party, but he tanked. Why?

My sense is that he became stupid like most of us do … slowly but surely.  Here is what seems to be the evolution of this kind of stupidity.

  1. Success and recognition of our accomplishments.
  2. Beginning to believe our own press.
  3. A lack of attention to and/or unwillingness to address character flaws and inappropriate and unhealthy internal motivations.
  4. Pressures of leadership and life.
  5. Refusal to develop self-discipline and good habits.
  6. A sense of inadequacy and unfulfillment.
  7. Development of a facade or public front.
  8. A growing lack of support and personal accountability.
  9. Increasing split between the private and public life.
  10. Self-sabotaging behavior.
  11. Increasingly risky activities.
  12. Crashing publicly.
  13. Disgrace and dishonor.

That’s my take on how we become stupid. We all have the capacity to end up there. That’s why we so desperately need friends who support us and hold our feet to the fire, internal spiritual resources, a focus on inner life and integrity (same in public as we are in private), and the humility to admit when we mess up (as we all do).

By the way, my wife and I are both filled with sorrow for him (hey we’re all seriously flawed), his family, the US Congress and the millions of people touched by yet another sad situation. But this forced me to ask how can this kind of thing happens?

What do you think? Did I get this right? What would you add or edit? Let’s think about this together.

WHAT WILL MATTER…a perspective on 2011

I recently read a blog with piece from the Josephson Institute of Ethics on living for what counts. I like this. What would you add or change here?

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built;
Not what you got, but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories,
but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

“What Will Matter“. Michael Josephson, one of the nation’s leading ethicists, is the founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

Elizabeth Edwards Lasting Legacy

By this time I’m sure you have heard that Elizabeth Edwards has passed away. After a life of great victories and some great challenges she leaves a lasting legacy of optimism, leadership, loyalty and living life at full tilt.

My friend Catherine passed on this quotation from Elizabeth that touched both of us. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”

These words remind me of Psalm 90 when we are told to “remember and number our days.”

So why don’t you take the rest of 2010 and imagine that you had ONLY 2011 left to live. Yes, on January 1, 2011 you are ought of here, gone, exist on this earth no more.

So, how will you live differently?  Answer these questions and let me know your thoughts?

1. How will you spend your time differently beginning to day?
2. What critical relationships will you concentrate on?
3. How will you spiritual life be affected?
4. What lasting legacy will you focus on in the last year of your life?

America has drifted away from our core values?

America was founded on a strong character ethic–a Judeo-Christian ethic. Our country started with individuals who had a an internal true north pointed toward a strong sense of universal principles like hard work, honesty, kindness, justice, compassion, community and so on.

This is why the Founding Fathers said so often that “good government is based on self government.” Their point was that the way to have a good and limited government was for people to govern or discipline themselves. And, that is indeed what happened. People were disciplined around a set of principles or straight lines. They self governed which allowed for minimal external government. For instance, if a person is honest and lives by “my word is my bond” it minimizes external controls such as extensive, detailed legal documentation, courts to settle disputes and lawyers to make the case.

But we began to loose our straight lines. How? Some of my thoughts are…

  1. We’ve become more dysfunctional as a culture debilitating our ability to stay true to core value.
  2. Materialism has tended to make us less needy and dependent on character-based living due to apathy.
  3. Our faith-based institutions have ceased to elevate right living with a sense of urgency.
  4. The media has elevated values and principles that counter fundamental goodness and character.
  5. We’ve sought quick fixes and taken shortcuts that have lead to the violation of our core values.
  6. The family breakdown has confused values such as loyality, commitment, love, fidelity, etc.
  7. We’ve drifted (more on that in my next blog).

What do you think? I’d like your feedback on this and get your insights. Let’s try to figure this one out for all of our sakes.