I’m going to talk about virtue in this essay… stick with me.
When’s the last time you heard the word virtue? Maybe you remember the term from philosophy class in high school or college? What do you think of when you hear the word? I bring up virtue, or moral excellence (high moral standards), because it’s something I think about often. It’s such an important ingredient to living a fulfilling life. Virtue is also needed when building a great family or relationship. I think virtue is even more important in building a lasting business that serves the marketplace. Something I ponder, the same question the ancient Greeks raised: “Can you live a successful life without being a virtuous person?” Our society’s current standard for what success is has virtue so far removed from it. I think we must move in a direction as a people that declares the only successful life is one lived with virtue. Ironically, if there is one value lacking in society today, it would be virtue.
I believe that businesses especially must return to the philosophy that virtue—incredibly high moral standards are the cornerstone of a successful, lasting business. Sure, anyone can make money off of other people by scamming them or selling them inferior products or services, but that kind of business will never last in a marketplace that values integrity and quality. The truth is that we all demand integrity and quality from others, and that is where most people truly fail. You must demand integrity from yourself. If you value morality in people, in the marketplace and in society, you must first demand it from yourself. You can never ask someone to have certain ideals that you yourself do not exhibit.
Likewise, as a business owner, I can never ask my employees to have virtue unless I first demand it from myself, and I do. I make it a discipline to reflect every night on whether I exhibited virtue throughout the day. Was I someone that other people could learn from and look up to? Did I lead my staff in a way that I would want them to lead others? Did I act in accordance with who I really am and who I want to be? Or, did I allow myself to slip? Being mindful of my successes and my shortcomings regarding virtue is something that allows me to grow as a person of character.
There can be no success without virtue. No relationship or business will last, business or otherwise if both parties do not have a high regard for integrity and moral standards. Every good person interested in the well being of themselves and others seeks to live in a world of harmony and goodness. So, a good place to start is by asking every day: “Who am I?” “What type of person was I today?” “Did I act in a way that others would see as virtuous?” “Am I proud of my actions as a leader, an employee, as a lover or a parent?” These questions, if reflected upon daily, can guide you to leading to a life of incredible integrity and fulfillment—a life of virtue.