Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ten Lessons From Ghana - Lesson 6

Lesson 6 is

Integrity Counts. Cultivate it.

I wrote about integrity a few months ago. Interested readers can find that post here. I'd just like to look at it from a different angle.

It's not that I went through life not thinking that it was important to be honest or not having any values. What changed for me was realising that 1) you cannot pick and choose when to be honest, and 2) That it could be cultivated.

I'll expand on these.

You cannot pick and choose when to be honest.
This means that you have to do it at all times. In big things, and in little things. In your job, in your business, in your friendships, and relationships. This would seem like a really hard thing to do, especially if you haven't been this way all your life, but that's where the second point comes in handy

Integrity can be cultivated
Put simply, you too can do it. Thankfully, it's not an inherited trait, so if you commit to do things right, you can. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Also, I've noticed that once you actually start practising, you develop a nose for impropriety.You find it easier not to live in grey areas. If it's not black, it's white. And take responsibility for your choices, and hopefully you take actions to ensure you get it right the next time around.

This is not something you do to impress others. In fact, there will be many times when doing the right thing will make you unpopular. A lot of times, doing the right thing is hard. There will be times when you'll have to point out that something's not proper. And you'll seem too known or maybe even preachy. You'll have to choose. You stay in the mud with the rest of them, or you do what you know is right. Depending on the company you keep, it may seem like you're out on your own. If it seems this way to you, you probably want to find new friends. Don't believe that "everyone is doing it". It's not everyone who is doing whatever funny thing you're trying to justify so if it seems that way to you, you're spending way too much time with negative influences.

I'll end with just one example of how you not doing the right thing hurts all of us.

Let's say you've just started making food to sell. You're still learning so your food kinda sucks. That's normal. When most people start making food, it sucks at first. The thing to do is to take feedback from people who buy your food, and improve on it. The business people call it iteration. This is the time to iterate. To try things, to add more salt, a little less pepper, until you get it right. But nooo. You're too impatient to succeed. So you pay your workplace canteen to give you a contract to supply your sucky food to your workplace during lunch time. You know that you would never have gotten this contract without paying this bribe 'cos well, your food sucks. But because you pay, suddenly you create this artificial demand for your food. Not only are you making bad food, you're making it in large quantities, and you now have no incentive to improve your food because well, you're able to sell it.

It may seem to work for you, because you don't have to bother with iterations.
But for the rest of us, we now have to live with a sucky product because you failed us all by not developing your product (in this case, food) to be the best that it could be. The person who is doing it honestly is also deprived the chance to compete for that contract even when her food is now better than yours because you paid. You beat the system but what a waste! You are stuck with a mediocre product and if you're proud of it, then bravo!

Extend my food example to any other business, and you realise, why the means is as important as the ends. Take the example of the student who cheats his way through school, he graduates but hasn't learned anything. This guy's going to be with you in the same office, and productivity is nil. Or the example of the person who sleeps with the Boss to get a promotion. Same deal. And how can our country hope to develop if its people, especially its young people are constantly cheating their way to the top?

Remember, the main points of this post is that you can be unfailingly honest if you commit to cultivating the habit.

Watch out for lesson 7


  1. On point as always Mameous!. "You must achieve the confidence of knowing that you possess absolute… unbending… unimpeachable integrity. Everyone must know that… above all else… it is integrity that defines your character". I saw that quote somewhere[cant remember] but it's been my mantra. Keep dem posts coming!

  2. Picture this:
    I'm out of postage stamps and need to mail a letter so I pull up to the post office and grab a handful of loose change in the car.
    I have a few quarters but I also found a quarter-looking-coin but its Panama currency.
    Guess who came to mind whilst I was conversing with the angel & the devil on my shoulders? You and your post on integrity a while back.
    Don't ever quit writing.

    The conversation was that someone slipped me that coin so why dont I just pass it along.