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Weekly 3: Points on a moral compass

Summary: Be a mensch. Test the ethics of your decisions. Be honest to be courageous. (~5 min read) No

Idea Journal Weekly 3

June 10 · Issue #38 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Be a mensch. Test the ethics of your decisions. Be honest to be courageous. (~5 min read)
Note: Idea #2 below is taken from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because we think it fits well with the core theme: points on a moral compass.

#1. Identify a mensch, and then become one.
Mensch is a German word for “human being.”
And as author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki points out in his book Enchantment, its Yiddish connotation is even more revealing: someone who is decent and honorable in all of their undertakings – they’re the same person in both private and public.
But not everyone is a mensch.
Kawasaki recommends a two-factor test to help you tell the difference between someone who is genuine and a “smooth pretender":
  • First, consistency is key: while some people may be able to cover up who they really are some of the time, it’s difficult trying to keep the mask on in all circumstances – it will slip at some point.
  • Second, Kawasaki suggests that many of us have a well-honed gut feel that a person might not be genuine. We can choose to ignore those signals and “small integrity slips” out of convenience or self-interest, but in doing so we’re only deceiving ourselves.
In a separate blog post, Kawasaki references the work of leadership coach Bruna Martinuzzi, who’s compiled the below list of 11 suggestions for how you can be a mensch in business:
  1. Always act with honesty.
  2. When someone has wronged you, continue to treat them with civility.
  3. Think back on any unkept promises you made in the past, and try to fulfill them.
  4. Help someone who can be of absolutely no use to you.
  5. The next time something goes wrong on a project, instead of assigning blame, ask: What can we learn?
  6. Hire people who are at least as smart as you are, preferably smarter, and give them opportunities to grow.
  7. Improve your communication skills, and give people their moment: don’t interrupt, don’t rush to give advice or immediately dismiss their concerns, and don’t change the subject.
  8. Resolve to do no harm in any of your actions.
  9. Become a “knowledge philanthropist.” What knowledge or expertise can you share with your colleagues or customers that will help enrich them?
  10. Don’t be too quick to shoot down other people’s suggestions: some of the most valuable ideas are the result of an initial “crazy” thought.
  11. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to mentally review what happened, and ask yourself: Are you proud of what you accomplished? Could you have done better?
#2. To help ensure that a given decision is as ethical as possible, use the “Four-Way Test.”
Members of Rotary International, the nonpartisan and nonsectarian international service organization established in 1905, are dedicated to solving the “world’s most persistent issues,” such as fighting disease and promoting peace.
To help guide ethical decision-making in their work, they apply the Four-Way Test to each of their actions by asking the following four questions:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better relationships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
#3. It takes courage to change, and to stay the same.
In his book The Thing You Think You Cannot Do, author and psychiatrist Gordon Livingston writes that honesty is a prerequisite for courage. 
For Livingston, one of the most necessary forms of courage, both individually and as a society, is the courage to change.
Time forces change upon us as we age, but “we have few models of graceful acceptance.”
Livingston notes that the laws and norms that regulate our relationships with each other also require continual evaluation and evolution.
But in this process, he suggests that we use the below 5 “permanent truths” as guides:
  1. It’s wrong to treat another person as an object.
  2. We’re all in this together.
  3. The measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.
  4. Fear brings out the worst in us.
  5. If we lived forever, there would be no such thing as courage.
Quote of the Week
“Don’t do things that you know are morally wrong. Not because someone else is watching, but because you are. Self-esteem is just the reputation that you have with yourself. You’ll always know.”
- Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant, captured in an interview with Tim Ferriss in the book Tribe of Mentors
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