In the best-selling book “The Millionaire Next Door”, author Thomas Stanley interviewed 733 self-made millionaires and asked them what were the key factors that had contributed to their wealth. For those of you who haven’t read the book, what would you guess was the number one factor, above all else, that had lead to these millionaires’ wealth?
Was it buying a hot stock at the right time? No, it wasn’t that.
Was it flipping houses for big bucks? Nope.
Was it winning big at the roulette wheel in Vegas? Negative.
The number one ranked factor that had most contributed to their wealth was this:
Being honest with people.
Surprised? This factor was ranked way ahead of factors like ‘making wise investments’, ‘working hard’ and ‘having a competitive spirit’. We all know why integrity is important from a moral perspective, but why is it so important for personal success and building wealth?
It’s because words are powerful forces of creation. Our words and actions inform our reality. Florence Scovel Shinn said “Every time we speak, we create a road of some sort. The quality of that road, and how far it goes, will be directly related to the integrity of our word.” [Emphasis mine]
Indeed, your most valuable asset is your integrity.
You see, we get personal power from doing what we say we are going to do and acting in congruence with our words. And conversely, you divide your power when you: don’t do what you said you were going to do, when you intentionally deceive someone or when you do something that you know could hurt someone else, even if that something has provided you with a clever way to escape and hide from responsibility. Plausible deniability is still a lie.
Prisons of guilt and shame
I’ve always believed that insincere people create their own prisons of guilt and shame. Their lying causes them to have “multiple realities”. They have one reality that they they live in, that’s the truth and then another reality that’s built upon falsehoods. And they fool themselves into thinking that they can live in both realities… and that nobody will know the difference.
The more lies they tell, of course, the more multiple realities they create and must live with. That’s an enormous burden that is energy draining, because it literally costs them their peace of mind – the state of being connected, calm, consistent and undivided.
With their honor fractured, the insincere person becomes miserable, feeling like things are crumbling around them, and unable to truly relate to people and make decisions because of fear. You see, they tend to be wary of other people and ironically, they don’t completely trust others. This is where the phrase “suspicion haunts the guilty mind” comes from.
Which is why integrity is so vitally important to success. You see, integrity is the one, true freedom. Because if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
Heraclitus said: “The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny.”
I’m going to repeat that – your integrity is your destiny.
You see, we are always becoming something. And becoming successful is very important. And how can you do what is important if you don’t have values? If you don’t stand for something?
And know this: Honesty pays. I’ve seen this play-out many times in my own wealth-building journey. I’ve had many opportunities come to me that weren’t made available to others, simply because the person presenting the opportunity knew that I would act in an honorable way. That I would walk my talk.
For example, if the opportunity required a million dollar investment six months from now, they knew that I would have the million dollars at the time needed and that my check would clear. No monkey business. No delays. No “Well, you see…” stories. They would get none of that from me. They knew that I would do what what I said I would do.
Charlie Munger echos this sentiment: “More often we’ve made extra money out of morality. Ben Franklin was right for us. He didn’t say honesty was the best morals, he said that it was the best policy.”
And the opposite holds true. Dishonesty doesn’t pay. Here’s an example:
A few years ago, I was introduced to a business owner and had occasion to be around him a few times. It didn’t take long for myself and others to realize that he was person who was “economical with the truth.” Mind you, he didn’t tell bald-faced lies. Rather, he skirted the truth with what he thought were clever actions and responses. But we weren’t fooled. We all knew that he wasn’t sincere. Sure enough, fast-forward a few years later and he had went out of business. His insincerity had caught up with him because he had built a reputation as someone who couldn’t be trusted. Is it any surprise that he went monetarily bankrupt, when he was first morally bankrupt? We know this about personal interactions – we only relate to people we know, like and trust. His customers didn’t trust him and therefore they couldn’t relate to him. And since they couldn’t relate to him, they walked out and left him to his lies. His response? Shock and then denial.
Which brings me to this point – I’m always amazed at how insincere people become surprised, almost incredulous, when they lose relationships, businesses and investments. They’re somehow shocked and hurt when sincere people end a personal or business relationship with them over their white lies, little half-truths and minor deceptions. These people create their own storms and then get upset when it rains!
What’s totally lost on them, and what sincere people already know, is this…you get what you give. If you give insincerity in a personal relationship, don’t be surprised if get insincerity back from the other person and they end the relationship. If you give insincerity in a business relationship, don’t be surprised to get insincerity back from your customers as they stop coming to your business. If you give insincerity in an investment arrangement, don’t be surprised to get insincerity back from other investors as they quickly spread the word that you’re not trustworthy.
Your Personal Code – A System of Convictions
In my ebook, The Financial Freedom Formula, I talk about having having a System of Convictions and why they are so important to success. I believe that everyone should have a set of personal codes that they live with and can be proud of. Your convictions are your internal compass, the lines that you will not cross and what you will do and won’t do.
One of my convictions is this: How you do one thing, is how you will do everything. If you’ll be a little dishonest now, then you’ll be a lot dishonest about something in the future. If you’ll deceive someone about a small thing, you’ll deceive someone about a big thing. Insincere people not only deceive others, they deceive themselves. They trick themselves into thinking that they’re a “good person” because they are only insincere about small things. Just like you can’t be a little pregnant, you can’t be a little insincere either. “What you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny.”
If you find that your intentions don’t match your actions and words, know that your sowing the seeds of future unhappiness and misery. You will find yourself to be a much happier person when you’re sincere. You will find yourself sleeping better when there are no half-truths keeping you awake at night.
And if you find yourself around others who are insincere, don’t argue with them or debate them. This causes you to be miserable and to lose time. It’s best to just do this – disassociate with them. Avoid them. As Lao-Tsu said: “Respond intelligently to unintelligent treatment.” Remember, bad habits are contagious, so do some housekeeping on your relationships, end insincere relationships and make more room for building relationships with people that are honest and sincere.
Your words are powerful and your reality will reflect whether your words are congruent with your actions or not. Speak and act from a place of sincerity and integrity and to Shinn’s point, you’ll create a road of the highest quality – a road that takes you in the direction of your dreams.
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.
Want even more truth about success? Check-out these other articles from the blog archives: