The title of this post might seem a bit misleading because it implies that it’s most important to demonstrate integrity when dealing with smallish details but integrity can be abandoned when considering large issues.
To a degree that’s true but let me explain…..
When I played high school football – and I use that term “played” very loosely since the bulk of my game time experience was spent riding the bench – we were instructed by our various coaches that we had to give 100 percent with every drill and exercise during practice. Our coaches’ collective reasoning was that you can only do in the actual game what you’ve already done in practice.
That is valid reasoning that holds true for any endeavor in life.
In fact, a derivative of that perspective is the premise of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which states that the truly exceptional individuals within any profession have spent at least 10,000 hours practicing their respective skill or craft. Once that threshold is reached, they’ve achieved an expert performance level that pushes them ahead of everyone else making them “outliers” when compared with the normal performance curve – outliers include Steven Jobs, Warren Buffett and Itzhak Perlman.
But every hour, every minute and every second of that monstrously cumulative 10,000 number matters. If you want to be the best at something you simply have to log all the little seconds and minutes.
While that makes sense in external performance areas such as sports, finance, music, marketing, art, education and business – I propose it has a necessary place as well within the inner core of each person, which leads us back to integrity and the title of this article.
All of us are already born experts regarding the human traits of selfishness and deceit – anyone who’s spent time around a toddler knows that they’re two most favorite words are “Mine” and “No.” We don’t have to practice being selfish or dishonest, because we already are.
However, the traits of integrity, honesty and consideration require a great deal of effort, energy, focus and practice to achieve. In the same way that we must practice swinging a bat; writing a book; analyzing data; speaking in public or painting with acrylics – we need to practice integrity beginning with the little things.
If we can’t accurately discern and apply integrity in the little inconsequential areas of every day life, we won’t be able to apply it in the major, life-altering decisions either.
If you don’t tell the cashier when he gives you back more in change than the cost of a purchase, you’ll be unlikely to report that extra cash you earn on side jobs to the IRS. While everybody might be doing that – it doesn’t make it right, which is at the core of living a life of integrity. Both the big and small decisions in our lives require integrity – but you won’t make the correct big decisions if you don’t start with the small ones first.
That’s why integrity matters most in the little things, because that’s where big things are birthed.