I’m going to be honest. I’m going to share a bit of reality with you. I’ll be transparent, to a point. The cost of being a person of integrity is a high cost. To say anything else would not be the most honest thing to share with you.
Now, being transparent doesn’t mean I can necessarily give you all of the juice details. I’m saving that for the book 🙂 Seriously, though, the details are the type of details that you have to run by an attorney to make sure one is not divulging too much information that would get the sharer in trouble legally. What I could share with you is 100% truth, but I want to ensure that my family is safe before I share that with you.
Ok, so what is the point of this article? You may be wondering what it is that I am sharing with you if I keep saying I’m sharing, but I’m not sharing?
The reality is that I served as the Chief Technology Officer in a company that I thought, at the time, was an honest company. I found things that we will call “oversights” (whatever reality may be there). However, my correction and following S.E.C. compliance was not something that was desired. Ok, enough said on the background … for now … Stay tuned for the book on that “Cracks in the Foundation.”
The Price You Pay for Integrity
In my case, I was one of a very few that took the step to stand their ground, as far as integrity. It does not come without cost. I was living happily ever after with my family in Southern California. I was attending the high society cocktail parties (including interacting with the Celebrities), the swimming pool in the backyard (not just “a pool,” but the luxury pool), the hot tub, the entertainment-ready backyard, being a part of the art society, the music scene (including singing and being invited to sing on Sunset Strip, also including #1 Los Angeles Jazz Singer for a year)… the list could go on… My kids were able to get their “toys,” and so were Mom and Dad and trips and cruises were no issue.
Now, that life seems like another world. The particular situation that we found ourselves in was such that finding a safe place, away from those who may not find my “stand” appealing was more important than maintaining a high society role. Paying bills became an issue without that six figure income (plus six figure bonus accumulation). In fact, I even turned down a severance payment because my honesty was not for sale. It was more important to maintain my integrity than any amount of money. But, that can bite you in the butt!
The Psychological Effect
It is tough. Really tough. You go from the top of your world to the bottom in one fell swoop. You realize that had you decided to be dishonest, you would not have fallen. At first, the attitude, when people would hear the story, was, “Yeah, right.” It was a case of “That only happens on television.” Fortunately, the story of the company (and its demise) came about a year later and that was vindicating. People now respond with, “Really? You worked for THAT company?” Yes, I did. I coined it, for conversation, the “West Coast Madoff.”
Psychologically, it is tough on a person to chose integrity. Oh, it’s true. People pat you on the back and say, “Wow, we need more people like you! That is great!” Oh, I get a lot of compliments and kudos, but the reality is that this experience dead stopped my career as CTO. People wonder if I had anything to do with the dishonesty (which I did NOT) and when they find out that you were part of the solution, they make comments like, “How could you work for such a company?!” It is so much easier for people to judge. That also allows them to not feel bad because, hey, it is consequences, right.
Wrong. For any of you facing a similar situation, let me tell you this. You WILL experience consequences to standing your ground and standing for what is right and ethical. There is doubt. However, the reason that I say, “Wrong,” is how it relates to blame. Realize this. You will pay the price of being honest (a high, disturbing, uncomfortable price), but it isn’t your fault! You have been given an opportunity to do the right thing. If you find yourself having to ask for food stamps, as a result of your decision, that is not your fault. It is a consequence, but you are still that person of integrity and your value is not related to how much money you make. It is about the truth.
The “Feel Good” Feeling Attached to Integrity
The key takeaway from being honest and a person of integrity is being able to look in the mirror and know that you are ethical. I realize that this is not for everybody. Not everybody will get that “feel good” feeling. But, for those who value integrity and want to be known for being a person of integrity, this will be something that you can hold onto, realizing that that integrity actually cost you, in a real way. It is one thing to say that you are honest, it is another thing to go through the trenches, with all of the cuts and bruises and broken limbs, and know that you proved to yourself that you are that person that you thought that you were. Many times, we think we are something, but it is after we hold strong, in the face of that temptation to be something else, that we find out what we are made of and who we are. This “feel good” feeling may not get you through every day. It still is a requirement that you work to be positive and positive self-talk in the face of adversity, but this “feel good” feeling helps you to gain confidence that you may not have had before this time. It gives you an opportunity to share that confidence with others and encourage them on your path.
You see, a difficult situation is just an opportunity for your personal growth. It is not the end, but rather, the beginning of a path that was laid out for you to follow. Embrace your opportunity to be someone that others will respect, and more importantly, fulfilling who you already know that you are… the character of YOU.
Goodness… I’ve certainly been there. Not to the degree as you because I didn’t come close to making that kind of money. But for a while there I was black balled and few would believe me, and sometimes I wasn’t sure I believed myself. I got my vindication 7 years later, but by that time all the players were gone and I’d had to find a way to start all over.
It’s all about integrity in the end. I can live with myself knowing that I was right and did the right thing. These other people… if they can live with themselves then they’re psychopaths; nothing to do for them. I applaud you!
Thank you, Mitch. It is so nice to find someone who has “been there, done that.” While I am not meaning to sound like I am applauding the paint that you went through (I am certainly not!), I do thank you for posting your comment in a sort of support of those out there who value integrity. Again, I thank you and I am happy to be among the group of those who value integrity.