Three Words to Empower Your Success

"As adults, we need to model discipline to the next generation."

The old man sat in his rocking chair, eye lids falling heavily on his already-tired face. The rhythmic squeak of the wooden rocker rails stopped some time ago. A calm snore began to fill the stillness in the room. Despite his restful appearance, the man’s arms were wrapped tightly around an open book that lay on his lap. The grip of his hands seemed odd given the rest of the man’s gentle presence.

A young boy, maybe just entering his teen years, stepped quietly into the old man’s study. From the doorway, he could hear the gentle hissing from the man’s nose. He is sleeping again – the boy thought. Maybe I can get a peek at that book this time. Slowly maneuvering his way toward the rocking chair, the boy stepped too heavily on a loose board in the wood floor.

 

The Lady's Journey

“…Lady Aberline focused her mental and physical energies on the task that awaited her.”

What? What? The old man said, startled. He opened his eyes and turned around, still holding tightly to the book on his lap. Well! It’s you again. Good to see you, my lad. Have a seat, and I will tell you another story.

From the book I hope, said the boy.

Yes, yes! From the book. So, where should I begin?

What type of relationship do these two characters have?

In the beginning.

In a previous article, I talked about “Cheating Your Way to the Top“. Although the focus of that article was “making a pact with a higher power” to achieve your goals, the broader idea of attaining something by not earning it applies to many things. I am not saying that the desire for something is wrong. Many people want to achieve certain things in life – riches, fame, power, health. However, how we get to those ends does matter. In fact, the journey to success is probably more important than achieving that success. Allow me to state my case.

Image by havos123 from Pixabay
Image by Willgard Krause from Pixabay

It Begins with School

“It was their duty to follow orders.”

In academic settings, teachers set goals for students. These goals focus on memory, performance, thinking, writing, and other categories. These categories represent the core skills our society recognizes as valuable – skills that (we hope) lead to a productive life. A student’s success in school is characterized by how well that student achieved those goals. We recognize academic achievement based on percentages out of 100, with 100 being the perfect score. As a result, adults give high praise to students that achieve grades that reach close to, or touch, 100. In the same way, we measure skills across a variety of performance-based activities based on a standard (i.e., a grading system), one’s ability to achieve that standard, and the social implications on the level of achievement. This is how we live life. People in society have debated the validity of this system for years. In my own way, I add to the debate today.

It Transfers to Work

“…the Warlock makes a pact with a greater being.”

Those in business leadership – bosses, supervisors, managers – set achievement goals for their employees. Although this may be more applicable to sales, all departments are equally vulnerable to competition. The bottom line is that a person or group of people are either increasing company profits by selling more “things”, decreasing company expenditures by increasing efficiency and productivity, or creating new avenues to earn money via research and development. In these scenarios, the first to achieve the goal gets the reward. As in school, this is an achievement-based system. Those who achieve more get rewarded; those who achieve less get ignored. People do not like being ignored.

It is in our culture.

Although there are many examples of cheating one’s way to the top, the Enron Corporation story comes to the forefront of my memory. Other stories are equally valid – but the bottom line is the same. If you are going to cheat your way to the top, the fall is going to hurt. But this article is not to preach: “Thou shall not cheat”. I am focused on the backstory – the why behind the what. Why do we set others up to compromise their own integrity, the integrity of their peers, or the integrity of an entity (i.e., a business brand)? Additionally, why do we choose to cheat rather than achieve the goal by earning it? I believe that both integrity and character count, especially as they pertain to goal achievement.

Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay
Image by Jasmin Key from Pixabay

Questions, the Goal, and the Process

“…has more value than cheating your way to a goal.”

Questions.

What needs to be considered? Two things – there are two critical variables that impact how people make decisions. First, the goal. Second, the process.

The Goal.

Is the goal morally sound and does it make sense? As stated above, increasing profits, decreasing costs, or creating new paths for revenue are legitimate goals. All these goals are worthy pursuits. I say this from two perspectives: a business owner and a worker. As a business owner, I know that if my business is making money, then I am making money. This is a win-win scenario. I like making money. Many people share this same sentiment. As a worker, I like achieving goals. Specifically, I like to write, talk, and make things – and all these things make me money. These activities are also personally rewarding.

The Process.

The problem may be the process. For some people, the end justifies the means. Because the result is to increase profits (a good thing), decrease costs (a good thing), or create a new source of revenue (also a good thing), the path to achieve any of these goals is also a good thing. Or is it? As I see it, the issue is that of personal character and integrity. I am not saying that adults who justify wrong behavior are inherently bad people. I am saying that all actions have consequences. Those consequences should be considered before actions are made. As both a parent and educator, I want our youth to recognize that their actions have consequences as well. Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

The Lesson.

The question for parents and educators is: how can we teach personal integrity and good moral character to our youth so that those lessons stick with them as they mature?

The Means to the End.

Teaching integrity and character can be taufdght using tabletop role-playing games. Today I focus on a special character class – the Wizard. The Wizard character class is continually revisited in movies, books, and television. We are familiar with Harry Potter, who brought us many amazing adventures. You may also be familiar with Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s adventures through Middle Earth. Either way, I address the Wizard archetype as the quintessential scholar – the learned mage – that gives us motivation for understanding the importance of three words: diligence, discipline, and direction. To become a Wizard, one must practice diligence, discipline, and direction. Without these traits, the Wizard is nothing. These traits are the backbone for good moral character and personal integrity.

Do not cheat your way to the top. Earn it!

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