I once read the story of a successful business man who was looking for a successor to take over his business. He decided to go about it a bit differently. Instead of choosing one of his children or one of the directors to take over the business he called all the executives in his company together.
He gave each one of them a seed and gave them order to plant the seed, water it, and come back one year later with what they have grown from the seed he gave them. He then would judge the plants that they have nurtured from the seed he gave them and on the outcome of that would decide on who will follow him up as the next CEO of the company.
One of the men, named Jim, got a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. He would water his seed regularly and checked every day if it had started growing, but nothing happened. Some of his colleagues talked about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow but nothing happened to his seed. After months of daily watering the seed and no success he felt like a failure. All his colleagues by now had beautiful plants, but still his seed was buried under the soil. He didn’t say anything to anybody, he just kept on fertilizing the soil and watering the seed because he really wanted his seed to grow.
After a year had finally passed by the appointed day came when all of them brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim decided to take his empty pot with him and just be honest about the fact that his seed never came up. All the other candidates had their pots there with beautiful plants that had been thoroughly taken care of. Jim’s empty pot was laughed at by most of his colleagues.
After surveying all the beautiful plants the CEO ordered all the people to sit down. He ordered Jim, the only one with an empty pot, to come to the front. Jim was embarrassed, he thought he was going to be fired because of his inability to even make a seed grow. To everyone’s amazement Jim was appointed the next CEO of the company. The CEO had given all of the participants a boiled seed that was dead, it was impossible for the seeds to grow. Everybody else had substituted their seed with another one after it became evident that their seed wouldn’t grow. Jim was the only person who had the courage and honesty to bring the empty pot with the seed in it to the meeting. He was the only person worthy of being the next CEO of the company.
The difference between Jim and the rest of his colleagues is integrity. The dictionary defines integrity as: “The state of being complete – unified.” Integrity is the one virtue that people are looking for in all other people, maybe because it is so rare. It gives people security if they find real integrity in someone, they can trust him/her with everything. Socrates, the old Greek Philosopher said: “The first step to greatness, is to BE in reality what you appear to be.”
In his book Million Dollar Habits, Brian Tracy says that integrity is not so much a value as it guarantees all the other values. In order to ascertain that your life will be governed by all your values you have to plant, water and cultivate the seed of Integrity in all areas of your live.
1. Sow seeds of Personal Integrity
In order to preserve your reputation in life you have to be true to yourself. As Socrates has said: “Be as you wish to seem”. If you lack personal integrity you will find it difficult to say no to the things that can hold you back from fulfilling your dreams. You will also find it difficult to discipline yourself to do what you know you should do when you have to do them in order to take you closer to your dreams.
This is the reason for a lot of unhappiness in people, they know that they shouldn’t or should do something but they just don’t seem to be able to break the bad habits that hold them back, because their personal integrity is not intact. As Steven Covey says: “The stress of a conscience that has been violated again and again transcends by far the stress of hard work and meetings and being very busy” and as Freva Stark said: “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do”
Brian Tracy writes in his book on Goals that, “Once you have decided that you are going to live consistent with a value, your level of integrity determines whether or not you will follow through on your commitment. The more you discipline yourself to live consistent with the very best you know, the greater is your level of personal integrity, and the higher your level of personal integrity, the happier and more powerful you will feel in everything you do.”
That’s why you have to continually cultivate the seed of personal integrity in your life by seeing to it that you keep your promises to yourself, that you keep on disciplining yourself. According to Tracy mediocre men and women are always cutting corners and compromising their integrity, especially when no one is watching.
2. Sow seeds of Integrity at home
It is difficult to raise children of integrity if you are not a person of integrity yourself because you can teach children what you know, but you will in the end reproduce what you are. You have to plant the seed of integrity in the lives of your children, to teach them to be trustworthy themselves. Please read the story by James P. Lenfesty, Catch of a lifetime, for an excellent example on how to be a good role model for your children. From an early age children follow our example, as this next poem clearly illustrate.
The little chap who follows me
A careful man I want to be; a little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray, for fear he’ll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape his eyes, Whate’er he sees me do, he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be; the little chap who follows me.
He thinks that I’m so very fine, believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see; the little chap who follows me.
I must remember as I go Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow,
I’m building for the years to be; The little chap who follows me.
- Author Unknown
3. Sow seeds of Integrity at work
In the workplace integrity is at least just as important as in the home. According to Brian Tracy the most important ability in the business world is “depend-ability”. People want to know that they can trust this person whom they are dealing with; there money and their business are in safe hands. The only way to do this is to be true to yourself and to honour your promises and commitments.
If people know that they can trust you, you will always be the person that other people go to if they want to be certain that the job is done on time and as good as possible, so keep on cultivating the seed of integrity in your life and you will be able to keep your good reputation for a long time, because you will be what you appear to be.