Integrity as a process

Integrity.  On Stephen Covey’s video tutorial on the four areas of life (body, heart, mind, spirit), he examines the word “integrity” and links it with the word “integrated”, resulting in a holistic state of being connected.  Are you connected?

I am connecting.  The insight into this take on integrity is the action involved.  It’s not a pious value to be put on a pedestal.  Integrity is an ongoing process of connecting with others everyday.  Living by principles on a daily basis while we interact with the people in our lives is a balancing act.  It’s also the microcosmic process of connecting the four areas of your own life.  This is what I spoke to in my first blog entry as personal synthesis.

I am an introverted extravert, meaning I need to connect and I need time to reflect on my own.  According to the Myers-Brigg personality type system, I am an ENFP.  Here’s the breakdown on the ENFPs: http://www.personalitypage.com/ENFP.html.  That’s an outstandingly accurate depiction of me. I tend to have issues with balancing the “me” time and the social time.  (If you haven’t taken the personality test yet to figure out your type, I highly recommend it.  Find out your personality type at this link: http://www.personalitypage.com/home.html.)

Successful people know how crucial relationships are in life.  Some would even say they are the most important aspect of life.  So why do we go lax in our social and professional lives?  Or in our personal lives?  We not only have to nurture these relationships, we have to tend to our relationship with self.

Stephen Covey literally wrote the book on successful people in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Staying connected within your circle of influence is paramount to keeping your life moving in the right direction.  But there are two aspects of balance at play: the social and the personal.  You can’t function socially to the best of your ability if you are fragmented on a personal scale.

I am pointing these things out for myself but with the intention that it may help others in the process.  I know I need to stay connected.  While “trying my best” is my mantra, I have messed up with people in the past.  Mainly, I’ve withdrawn and gone into my little self-absorption bubble too many times. But that’s what’s so ingenious about looking at integrity as a process.  You admit when you are wrong, try to make amends, and keep moving forward.

“Everything is connected to everything else.” Stephen Covey

Breadth v. Depth AND Judgment

We all look to “experts” for advice.  It’s with good reason.  We are looking to people with depth and their skills and “know-power” on various topics in order to make informed decisions.  I bought a marketing book simply because it is printed by Harvard Business School.  That name has the prestige of serious knowledge.  It outweighed more of the gimmicky books I could have purchased.

As a person who has an intellectual focus on “breadth not depth,” I often look for specialized information from experts.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  It makes good sense.  I was a liberal arts major.  We, as a group, are specialists in well-roundedness.  So as a well-rounded person, I do my homework, gather information, and synthesize that information using my best judgment.

What’s this about judgment?  It’s a constantly evolving but critical component of our individuality.  As I’ve matured, I’ve seen just how critical exercising good judgment is in all facets of life.  Good judgment is something that takes many experiences and lessons to develop.  And, you can lose it on a bad decision instantly.

From experience, I am slow and cautious in judging human beings.  This reserved approach works well sometimes.  In other words, people have a chance with me.  I don’t immediately rule people out based on their walk of life, personality, profession, accomplishments, so on and so forth.  I generally consider people my friends until they give me a reason to consider otherwise.  A lot of people don’t operate like this.  I am fully aware of it.  It’s an area where I perceive myself going against the grain.  It’s an indicator of a strongly felt value.  It is the belief in the inherent goodness and worth of human beings.  When you dismiss a person on a quick judgment call, you are dismissing the value of that person.

With my moderate approach to judgment, I am aware that exercising judgment often requires snap decisions.  You have to go with your gut.  It is zen-like in this state.  You have to be able to instantly pull from your reservoir of lessons.  And that is where synthesis comes into play.  As a well-rounded, evolving human being, you need to be able to gather expertise but make decisions based on your own unique judgment.  It’s a delicate balance.  We inevitably make bad choices.  But ultimately, if you are paying attention to the balance, you are going to consistently make more good choices.

I will spend my dollars on a book from Harvard Business School.  I will look to a seasoned scholar with a PHD in psychology for insights.  I will listen to Zig Ziglar for motivation and sales tips.  I understand how the economy of knowledge works.  But I understand this because of my well-roundedness.  No one else on this planet has my same exact perspective.

Seth Godin pointed out today that there are 80 million blogs on the Internet right now.  Regardless of whether or not anyone should stumble across this one, I can confidently assert that this blog will always be a little different.  I will also boldly assert that an individual prone to instant judgment may quickly dismiss the content found herein this blog.  There is a very clear picture in my head of the individual I am describing.

If you concentrate on one path and dig consistently, you are going to get depth.  That’s how it works.  You get to be an expert on that one path.  I respect this.  But I think sometimes people who focus on depth, get a serious case of tunnel-vision and do not always respect the unique perspective and judgment that can be honed from people who focus on breadth.  Maybe “breadth” people like myself spread themselves too thin at times.  But don’t forget that there is an actual spread that is a force to be reckoned with and not underestimated.

Am I making a case in favor of “breadth”?  Not at all.  It’s all yin and yang.  We are all interdependent.  The breadth people depend on the depth people.  I am just daring to point out that it also works in reverse.

Integrity in the workplace and beyond

I have been working for fourteen years now.  ‘What’s that?’  You say.  ‘You’re not even thirty yet?’  It is true though.  I have worked consistently since I was sixteen years old when I was able to apply for my working permit.  Yes, I am counting the waitress and cashier jobs at the pizzeria and the bagel shop – all work counts as experience.  These jobs were my core foundation in customer service and the very principles I still hold onto today.  Simple tried and true principles like courtesy and respect… From day one, you are honing skills if you are paying attention and applying them.

Thirteen of these years have been spent in offices.  And, fortunately, I have had the opportunity to start my career with extraordinarily good people and upright companies.  These leaders of the profit and non-profit worlds have demonstrated the meaning of integrity in the everyday.  Sure there are always moments of frustration, mistakes abound, people have power trips… but what was ingrained in me was a deep sense of right and wrong in the workplace.

I can’t pinpoint the very moment when I started to realize that my work experiences were something of an exception to the rule.  It’s probably been in the last few years though.  My more recent perception has been that there is a real absence of integrity “out there” so much so that it hardens you up a bit.  You have to toughen up and look at others through different lenses.  I am still a proponent of reserving judgments at least until you’ve gathered a good deal of information and experience with another human being.  On the other hand, in often quick and dirty business exchanges, you have to set your lenses to ones of caution.

We are conditioned not to trust.  We are expecting insincerity and deceit.  And in that regard, we wield our own virtual spears of insincerity and lack of integrity.  But, the eternal optimist that I am, I still believe in the inherent goodness of others.

Lately, I have been listening to my audio book of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (for more on Stephen Covey – go here.)  There is a reason why Stephen Covey has something of a cult following.  It’s because his advice resonates with what we all know to be true.  Call me new-agey if you’d like.  But I believe we are on the cusp of a societal shift.  I would like to see it shift to one where principles like integrity are seen as the norm and not the exception.  I would like to see it shift so that people treat each other with more heart and less caution and disdain.  I’d like to see us dream big.

That’s my two cents on integrity.  Please pray for Haiti and donate as generously as you can.  God bless.

-S

An introduction to personal synthesis

This is my first entry in this blog but I am not new to the blogging world or web 2.0.  I’ve spent the past decade immersed in this world – the entirety of my twenties.  I will be thirty this year.  An official adult.  With youth behind me, I like to think I have some lessons and wisdom to share if you care to stick around.  You and I and our parents and grandparents are now doing this blogging thing.  And, we’re all linked-in.  We all tweet and facebook now. (While spell-check doesn’t recognize it yet, facebook is now being used as a verb.)  Privacy is dead.  We are all expected to update our “status” around the clock.  We follow each other and accept friend requests left and right. Transparency is the new “thing”.

Do you really care that tonight I went on a mission with my boyfriend to Metuchen to find a 2004 vintage of Red Diamond for $9.99 because I’m on what I refer to as my recession budget?  (See my twitter page if you do.)

I think my first blogging experience began with a diaryland page that I kept for about two years and posted to religiously.  I was twenty years old.  I bared my soul before it was really popular to do so.  I impulsively locked that page and never returned, moving on to the new horizons of Myspace and Facebook.

My first and foremost passion is poetry.  I have a box full of notebooks and diaries that date back to adolescent pining and angst that took place for years and years.  There are numerous unpublished chapbooks and several manuscripts of poetry.  I also dabble in painting, photography, and fiction.  I have active remnants of those endeavors as well.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the field of marketing with my new job.  And what a wonderful fit it is as it merges both my innate creativity and my developed skill set.  It is my personal synthesis.  I have had the ah-ha!  The light bulb has gone off and it has clicked that this is exactly what I was meant to be doing.  I start my mba with a concentration in marketing in a few months actually.  Can’t wait.

What you can expect from me?  Honesty.  I am this transparent in real life too.  That you can rely on.  I try my best. I’m not always perfect.  But I am a person of strong character, doing my best to do the right thing even if it seems that I am often going against the grain in this regard.  I believe that there is great strength in being yourself.  You can also expect a lot of heart.

And that’s an introduction to personal synthesis.