Refresher Course on Integrity

When I was about thirteen, dad walked into my room and handed me a picture of a poem with a gold plastic frame. He said, “I want you to memorize this and I want you to hang it on your wall.” I never did get the whole thing memorized, but it did have enough impact on my life that I never forgot the opening stanza and I will never forget the assignment. The fifth stanza is occupying my thoughts this week. We are hearing a lot about bailouts, losses, toxic assets, layoffs, stimulus plans, accountability, etc. Like many of you, I’m weary of it all.

Somewhere the notion of losing became foreign to us. We have schools that won’t fail students who fail. Our kids play on sports teams that protect them from losing by refusing to keep score. Pro athletes get no cut, guaranteed contracts. During the mortgage fiasco, people got NINJA (No Income, No Job, no Assets) loans—and no accountability.

Life is hard. There are winners and losers. And most of the time we all experience moments of both heart crushing losses and thrilling victories. Risk and loss are part of life experience. I don’t care to hear people whine about their losses. It is part of our being here. Risk gives life flavor and texture. The danger can be thrilling and devastating. It can lead to tremendous loss and unimagined gain. To fail to risk is to fail to live. Kipling said . . .

If you can make one heap of all your winnings,
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss;

People in business should be required to face their losses with integrity. If you don’t want losses, be wiser. Return to the reality that in business a certain amount of risk is required. It’s true in life as well. I don’t know what to call people who want to be insulated from every loss. Sissy seems to be too nice, but some of the more pejorative words might be inappropriate (you may insert your term of choice here.)

I’d like to see just one of those C.E.O. types stand before Congress and say, “We loaned money to people who did not have the ability to pay it back. We will eat the loss and change the policies that led to this.” (Yes, I know the government forced some of that. Here again, integrity died on the alter of political expediency.) “We took a chance on product or resource development that did not pay off. We will take the loss and improve our research.” As Kipling said it, they need to take their losses, start again at their beginnings. In regard to their hard times and losses, I think they need to shut up and go to work.

telemicus out

4 Responses to Refresher Course on Integrity

  1. scott says:

    I agree with the spirit of your blog. There is one point that you didn’t touch on that is most present in my mind. As it relates to the mortgage situation, banks, auto industry, etc. there is a difference between risk and greed. they weren’t taking risks they were acting from arrogance and greed. If this were the small mom and pop shop it wouldn’t even be a story; they’d just die on the vine. But these are mega-conglomerates who’s actions are not simply something the CEO can pay the price for alone. Millions of people work for these (insert your word here). Unfortunately, in these circumstance the bailout was a government self protection measure from a run on unemployment by who knows how many millions. (I know, there were political reasons too.) If the bailout didn’t come through, these jerks would take their loss, and their golden parachute, and go start another company…and start again at their beginnings…and the rest of the workforce without a chute would be screwed. Now, I’ve argued from day one if you need a bailout then the company should get it to save the work force but the corporate leadership who steered the company into the tank should all be forced to retire without their parachute. Then they’re the only ones paying the price for being a loser. I’m a fan of justice for all but not at the expense or the plight of the masses.

    But what do I know!

  2. Michael Taylor says:

    Agreed Scott… my point is that integrity should be demonstrated by all involved. I was simply saying ‘stand up and take your swats like a man.’ I dont want people to suffer, ive been at a company that went under before. It’s just a call for integrity – however that is fleshed out… its what is missing. For the record… I think you know stuff. mt

  3. cindy smith says:

    I agree with both of you. Great!!

  4. Kaptain Jeremy Kleiber says:

    i really enjoy all of your entries, michael. Very good stuff. I’m listening.

    my favorite from this one: “I think they need to shut up and go to work”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *