The Content of your Character

Relationships are the foundation for success in life. This is the key, no matter what level the relationship is….mentor, coach, business partner, spouse, or friend. Those with strong relationship values have a better chance of succeeding in life because they have created a bigger safety net. For example, when you destroy the relationships with your friends, you will have no friends. You will be isolated and alone. You will look for other things to occupy your time, and typically those things are no good. They could be food, cigarettes, gambling, drugs, or many other vices. We look to fill that void because we are untrusted by our friends. If a student promises not to cheat, but does anyway, he is taking unfair advantage to put himself ahead of others without deserving it. He can ruin his reputation, his academic record, and his job prospects forever. When a businessman makes a promise to customers and doesn’t deliver, he destroys his relationships with his customers. His customers go elsewhere and his business fails. His reputation is always at stake. And remember, all we really have to sell is ourselves…our character.

By breaking your relationships, you break the foundation for success in your life. What is true success? In many cases, true success isn’t measured by us. For example, who is more successful, someone who is famous and makes a great deal of money, or someone who has no fame and makes little money, but is a great parent? Today in school, too much emphasis is being placed on good grades and high test scores—so much so that these things, rather than good character, are how we are defining success. I have always said that the true measure of success is not measured by us, but by others. The more respect and trust someone gives you is one true measure of success. Ask your friends, or be open to your protégés’ telling you what they think of your mentoring ability. Ask them where you might be able to improve, and get better at giving them exactly what they want. Think about the people who you consider to be successful. What do they have that you don’t? They don’t proclaim themselves successful. It is a title that you bestow on others, and how exactly is it measured? Do we measure it by the vehicles they drive, the clothes they wear? Most likely, we make a character judgment–don’t we? That is why character is so important.

Your good character is the most important asset you have. It takes a lifetime to build, but it can be lost in an instant. Once lost, it is difficult to regain. Your true character is revealed when no one else is looking. Often, people decide to act based on short term gain, or an easy fix to a problem, and they end up doing the wrong thing. The old adage “you are what you do” is true. Failure to consider the long term consequences of your acts can be disastrous. By study and focusing on the importance of character, you will be guided to do the right thing by principles, moral strength, and integrity. Nothing is more important for true success in your life. Developing character is our lives journey, and we must work at it daily in order to successful. We will stumble and fall, but when we realize it is about our partners, not us, we will be successful.

So many times in my career I have run into folks who just don’t understand how important a person’s character is. That is really too bad, because in most of those cases, these individuals have not had a proper mentoring relationship in their lives. I know of one case where a father took his son in to run his business and the son, over a period of time, drove the business into bankruptcy through a series of unscrupulous activities, drug issues and other trust-centered issues. The son’s marriage failed, too, because he was always seeking affirmation. He did not realize that what others think of you is more important, as compared to what you think of yourself. How sad to ruin a business (that had one hundred and fifty employees at one time) over your own ego and trust issues. It makes one wonder if all of this could have been prevented had the son had a good mentor to guide him in his life and business ventures. One will never know, but the destruction left behind is really sad…a life and a family ruined.

The late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged his followers not to judge people by their appearance, but by the content of their character. A person’s character, be it good or bad, can inspire others to greatness. In business, the role of leadership-caliber character can never be understated. Authentic leaders lead from a strong, personal, moral value that can have a profound effect on their organizations and have a tremendous effect on their ability to mentor others as well. You need to understand how character affects your organization, and how it can attract top performers, and just what overall effect on performance it has on the tangible side.