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Next time someone tells you business can't be done ethically -- corners must be cut, negotiations can't be honest -- hand them Jon Huntsman's new book. He started with practically nothing, and made it to Forbes'list of America's Top 100 richest people. Huntsman's generous about sharing the credit, but in the 21st century, he's the nearest thing to a self-made multi-billionaire. Now, he presents the lessons of a lifetime: a passionate, inspirational manifesto for returning to the days when your word was your bond, a handshake was sacred, and swarms of lawyers weren't needed to back it up. This is no mere exhortation: it's a practical business book about how to listen to your moral compass, even as others ignore theirs. It's about how you build teams with the highest values, share success, take responsibility, and earn the rewards that only come with giving back. Huntsman's built his career and fortune on these principles. You don't live these principles just to 'succeed': you live them because they're right. But in an age of non-stop business scandal, Huntsman's life proves honesty is more than right: it's the biggest competitive differentiator.
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To get ahead in business and stay there long-term, reconnect with and live the values you first learned as a child and that you’ve probably assumed no longer apply in business.
For most people regardless of their culture or upbringing, the values they learned as children were:
There never needs to be a disconnect between the values you have in your own life and what you do at work. You just don’t have to cut corners, fudge the numbers or cheat in large ways or small to stay competitive. What’s needed most is that you reconnect with and live the values you had as a child.
Your gut will always tell you whats wrong and whats right. Everyone has a moral GPS or compass. Do what you know is right rather than what’s expedient in any situation.
Although everyone is raised differently, we all know right from wrong. It’s as if each person has an internal GPS or compass, which has been programmed by our parents, our teachers, our friends and even our peers. As a result, everyone can differentiate right from wrong throughout their entire life.
When we try and rationalize our behavior or ignore the boundaries we know are important, it’s almost as if a little right-wrong indicator light starts flashing and continues to flash. This light will still be there anytime you steal, carry out any type of fraudulent activity or even arrange outlandish perks for yourself using your position of responsibility within your corporation. No matter how creative or sophisticated your behavior may appear, the flashing of that right-wrong indicator should loom large in your mind.
The laws of every society define the minimum course that must be followed, but everyone sets their own ethics. Sometimes there is an overlap of the two, but more frequently virtuous behavior is left entirely to your own discretion. Virtue cannot be politically or legally mandated, or enforced by bureaucrats. Respect, civility and integrity come about only when you live by your own personal values and do what you know to be right, even if the rulebook doesn’t specify this in great detail.
It’s interesting that kids naturally know what’s proper behavior, even if they don’t always act that way. They’re honest with their observations, able to work out their squabbles without the use of a court or even a 200-page rulebook and most of their games run fine without referees or umpires. Yet, in adulthood, we sometimes feel pressured into lying or cheating by “high expectations” or the belief “everyone else is doing it” so we need to cut corners to compete. That logic wouldn’t have made sense to us when we were kids so why should it now?
Getting to the top at all costs is a hollow victory. If we take shortcuts, or when we exaggerate our personal resumes or our corporate revenues, all we end up with is a shadow victory that can’t endure. The key ingredients for long-term success are still those we learned as youth: Courage, vision, follow-through, risk, opportunity, sweat, sacrifice, skill, discipline and honesty.
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience."
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