I was honored to be the May 2012 commencement speaker at my high school alma mater in central Missouri. I’ve been gone a long time, and preparing some targeted, cogent messages for that bunch of eighteen-year-olds was more of a challenge than anticipated. I edited out many, many points over the course of a few months. In the final draft…and I was even changing it at the podium…several of the messages I vocalized simply reflected the principles that have aided me in dealing with business situations thus far in my own work. However, some very meaningful lessons-learned for me, were from the experiences where I’ve witnessed what others have done when encountering tough situations, including fraud.
I called them “heroes” in my comments.
In my opinion, my own dozen or so experiences in uncovering and dealing with perpetrators and fraud have led me to a few focused and firm beliefs. One lesson ingrained in me by others addressed a strength-based way to deal with the negatives of dishonesty, story-telling, criminal behavior, and the lack of emotional control by perpetrators; a very fundamental and positive influence–the requirement for an internally-based sense of “right and wrong.” This is not hard, yet excuses overwhelm common sense—even after the perps do their deeds and rationalize it all. Secondly, Aristotle had it right, we learn by imitation and practice; “…we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts…” So, beyond early-family principles and discipline, a faith or inner guidance of some sort, and educational influences growing up, the post-secondary schools, universities and business organizations many times continue to miss the point. I recently saw another example within a financial officer organization I belong to, where a “perp was handed access to the podium.” Educating young people who possess few experiences of their own, these business-people-to-be, must include how to effectively view, evaluate, judge, prevent and detect both the right-vs.-wrong situations of fraud, but also how to deal with ethical situations they will assuredly encounter. So, the lessons-to-be-taught by professors (not perps) in the classroom must include active principles and behaviors to be modeled, practiced, and then executed consistently…concluding with the expectations to “do the right thing.”
So, among the few messages I attempted to communicate to these “kids” were:
- developing some “attitude”;
- finding heroes, then becoming one;
- expecting that failure WILL occur, but that diligent and early work to build and trust their internal fortitude (“core principles”) will allow recovery to at least a state of “keep-on-keeping-on”;
- and most importantly (from a Catholic writer by the name of Matthew Kelly), to keep as many of their choices as possible—focused on contributing to each of them becoming the best version of themselves that they can be…or to just:
Do the right next thing.