The following article is excerpted from a lecture by Prem Chopra at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in September 2006. The text of the entire lecture can be found in Masters of the Game: Reaching Beyond the Nexus to Success and Happiness.
Make Integrity a Habit
Some individuals search for ways to do the least to get by. Others look for ways to get the most for giving the least, manipulating to present the appearance of giving more that they actually contribute. They wrongfully believe this to be “optimization.” Who would you want to hire or promote, would you want to hire or promote such persons? Such individuals are inherently dishonest and untrustworthy. They are not dependable. It is foolish to be dishonest to your purpose. In fact, it is detrimental to your self-interest to be untruthful. Truthfulness and integrity are sound principles for success in any action—in your personal or your professional life. It is in your self-interest to be honest and to not try to out-smart or “fool” others. Here is a tip for you: never assume other people are stupid. Always assume others are very smart, and you will do the right thing. Then, you will be elevated in their esteem, and they will think of you as wise. If you assume people are stupid you will make some mistakes that are hard to recover from, and then you will be resented all the more. This often is interwoven with arrogance, which also is a negative core value.
Consider the fall of Richard Nixon. He was smart, and very clever, so he tried to outsmart others by lying, and eventually he had to step down from the presidency of the United States in disgrace. Bill Clinton, another American president, provides an example of dishonesty with his attempts to mislead the world regarding his conduct with a young female intern. Of course some people may say that as President why should a personal scandal matter? Clinton is a very intelligent man, and he is very competent, but look at what the scandal did to his inner moral life, to his legacy. As President, it is important to have the love and respect of the people you swore to serve. Do you think Clinton feels he has this?
The point here is to keep your life clean, by keeping your actions clean—that is, morally and ethically sound. It will make your life more efficient and productive—and most of all, fulfilling. It is easy to do, once you understand that honesty is in your best interest. You cannot divorce ethics from action, if it is to be fulfilling. So get into the habit of integrity.