Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

26th September 2007

What is the foundation of success?

What is the foundation of SUCCESS? What does it take to be successful? Is it character or personality that forms the basis of success? When i use the word ’success’, i mean success in every sphere of life – material, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

CHARACTER ETHIC Vs. PERSONALITY ETHIC

To quote from Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, Character Ethic is

things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule… Character Ethics are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.

Personality Ethic on the other hand can be summed as -

Success due to Personality Ethic is more a function of personality, of public image, of attitudes and behaviors, skills and techniques, that lubricate the processes of human interaction.
There are other parts of the personality approach that are clearly manipulative, even deceptive, encouraging people to use the techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted, or to use the “power look” or to intimidate their way through life.

I believe that character traits are like the foundation of a home and personality traits are like the look-and-feel of the home. Though both traits are needed, the primary trait is the character. If the foundation of the home is strong, the owner can live in peacefully trusting that the home will be able to protect him from harsh elements of nature even though it might not be appealing to look at. But if the home is appealing to look at and doesn’t have a strong foundation, it becomes unpredictable and you never know when it might collapse. You can’t trust your home.

If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other – while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity – then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything i do – even using so-called good human relations techniques – will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or not trust, there i no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique

To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don’t pay the price day in and out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind. So if there isn’t deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success.

There are of course people who have strong character traits (honesty, modesty, courage etc.) but they lack communication skills, and that undoubtedly affects the quality of relationships as well. But the effects are still secondary.

Many people with secondary greatness – that is, social recognition for their talents – lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later, you’ll see this in every long-term relationship they have, whether it is with a business associate, a spouse, or a friend. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.

This is so true. There are some people that I can trust absolutely because I know their character. Whether they have good people skills or not, whether they are well educated or not, I know I can rely on them and work successfully with them. These are the kind of people whom if I ask for advise, they will give it without any motive, whether its in their favor or not – no manipulations. And I can be pretty sure about the genuineness of their advise. Now, there are techniques whereby if they study a person enough and take appropriate actions, they can gain anyone’s trust to achieve their ultimate motive – harmful or harmless. But over time, it will show that these people are motive-driven and distrust and distance will creep in. Both are not good ingredients for success.

ENRON CEO – KENNETH LAY

Ken LayKenneth Lay was born into a poor family in Tyrone, Missouri. When he was a child Ken delivered newspapers and mowed lawns. He later went on to become one of America’s highest-paid CEOs, earning a $42.4 million compensation package in 1999. In December 2000, Lay was mentioned as a possible candidate for President Bush’s Treasury secretary. With his strong personality traits - a born salesman, risk-taker, and extremely pragmatic – he reached great heights in corporate America. While managing Enron, he took actions to bolster his public image,

Enron, was a groundbreaker in prohibiting smoking inside its shimmering high-rise office tower. So when you drove down Smith Street and caught sight of those nicotine addicts exiled to the sun-scorched pavement, the scene seemed to augur something new and advanced — a better way to live than that proffered by the old wildcatters who liked their whiskey, cigarettes and handshake deals. So Ken Lay held on to his public reputation as a good guy.

But what happened eventually to a man who didn’t have strong character foundation? Lay dumped large amounts of his Enron stock in September and October of 2001 as its price fell, while encouraging employees to buy more stock, telling them the company would rebound. Lay liquidated more than $300 million in Enron stock from 1989 to 2001, mostly in stock options. Would a man with strong character traits like integrity, honesty, courage and justice do what he did? No.

As one of his former executives, Mike Muckleroy, noted in his testimony, Mr. Lay tended to shade the truth under pressure as a businessman; As the lead prosecutor, Sean Berkowitz, pointed out, the trial wasn’t a litmus test of whether Ken Lay was a good person; <b>it was about his character at Enron</b>. Maybe Ken Lay will never be able to see himself for who he was, but by the time the jury took to their deliberations, most people in Houston felt they knew Ken Lay all too well.

Last five years of his life, he was under extreme stress and finally died of heart attack. And what do people still wish for him – hatred. What do people regret – that he died an easy death. What’s the legacy he left behind – a corrupt, selfish, greedy businessman who destroyed livelyhood and life-saving of thousands of people.

The Personality Ethic is illusory and deceptive. And trying to get high quality results with its techniques and quick fixes is just about as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.

Strong Character Ethic is the foundation of success.

What do you value more in yourself and people around you?

  • Character traits like integrity, humility, courage, justice, patience, simplicity. (100%, 12 Votes)
  • Personality traits like public image, communication skills, attitudes and behaviors. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Doesn’t matter. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 12

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