Have you ever admired someone for something they’ve achieved, only to find out later that their life is in shambles, or that they have left a trail of bodies in their wake? While this phenomenon seems more common among politicians, movie stars and pro-athletes, it happens among business people as well.
It often happens like this: an entrepreneur has made a ton of money. We’re drawn to them to discover the secret of their success. But when we actually meet them and spend time with them, we’re greatly disappointed by the person we encounter. Perhaps they’re rude, self-absorbed, liars or otherwise unethical in their practices. Such an experience exposes some of the dangers of not living an exemplary lifestyle.
Dangers of not living an exemplary lifestyle
- We compartmentalize our life, lying to ourselves that it’s okay to live one set of values in one area of our lives, but operating by a different set of values in another.
- We come across to others as hypocritical as we live according to a double-standard.
- Others see inconsistencies in our life and begin to mistrust us.
- We end up letting people down and hurting them.
- Living this way destroys our integrity and ultimately our business as well.
A Higher calling
Living an exemplary life changes the way we live for the better. Living to provide a model for others gives us a higher calling. Our very lives influence others around us for good. This is especially important with our children, nephews and nieces, mentees, or simply those who follow us. We not only want them to heed our message, but we back it up and strengthen it with a consistent lifestyle. With a clear conscience we want to be able to say, “Watch what I do and follow my example.”
Living as an example for others affects all areas of our lives, directing our motivations, goals and methods. Giving people a model to follow elevates people above everything else that is less important. But living an exemplary life helps our business too, because people do business with those they know, like and trust.
How to live an exemplary life
- Seek a balanced life. This can pose a real challenge to an entrepreneur. We can be so focused and so driven that we neglect our health, relationships, or other important matters in life. One good way to find balance in your life is by identifying your personal values and establishing goals and a schedule around meeting them. By doing so, you’ll discipline yourself to find time for family and friends. You’ll take care of your health, getting enough sleep at night, exercising and eating right. “He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.” – Dag Hammarskjold
- Cultivate integrity. We refer to the integrity of a bridge or other structure when it holds up under pressure. Similarly, with people integrity has to do with strength of character. We do what we said we’d do. People can count on us. We’re honest. We don’t cheat. We pay our bills and we pay them on time. People do business with us because they trust us. “The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Display genuine care for others. Our culture has become “me-oriented” and narcissistic. But this self-focused lifestyle is very unfulfilling and repulses others. When we show genuine care for others, they’re drawn to us. We treat them with respect. We provide them with products and services that improve their lives and they’re grateful to us for them. They like us and want to do business with us. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Zig Ziglar
- Extend trust toward others. One of the best ways to obtain the trust of others is to trust them. This means that we must depend on others for things. This too can be difficult for entrepreneurs. We like to think that we’re self-sufficient, but nothing of real value is ever accomplished without the help of others. Trust is the currency of the entrepreneur. Trust is reciprocal, so if you want to be trusted, trust others. “If you want someone to like you, let them do you a favor.” – Abraham Lincoln
- Show humility. One of the great misunderstandings is that humility is somehow a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it takes great strength to be humble. Someone has aptly said, “People with humility don’t think less of themselves…they just think about themselves less.” Therefore, humility often expresses itself in simple acts of courtesy like opening the door for someone, letting others go first, or offering a genuine compliment. While pride inevitably leads to downfall, humility builds a strong foundation.
It’s easy to just complain that “things were better in the old days” and bemoan how our country is on a downward slide into total moral decline. And keep saying, “it’s just business” to explain our actions.
But those around us, young and old, strangers and friends, desperately need good role models to follow. We, as in you and I, can, through the individual choices we make in private and public take up the challenge to be that example for them.