Sunday, December 7, 2008

To Thine Own Self Be True...

I wrote the following article over 4 years ago and it was published in Business Strategies Magazine. It came up recently in a search result and I re-read it and pondered how, the more things change the more they stay the same. It really speaks to what the "Social Medium" is all about. Read and enjoy!

Like most great principles, integrity gets a lot of air time, but it is seldom a true way of life, especially on the Internet. How people love and value a man or woman of integrity. Integrity in everything he or she does, in relationships, in business. Unfortunately, this often seems to be the exception rather than the rule. We have tuned ourselves to distrust what we read and see because frankly, so much of it is spin or an all-out lie. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is…

When we hear the word integrity it often congers up an image of a stern and sober school master whose Quaker or Puritan upbringing shows through his innate inability to smile, joke or be happy. But this isn’t what I’m talking about when I say integrity. I am referring to that strength of character that shuns expediency and avoids the temptation to cut corners or shade the truth, no matter what.

Integrity is the key to success in any endeavor. Integrity is honesty and the truth, period. Shakespeare captured the essence of this in Hamlet; “And this above all, to thine own self be true. And it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” If we are honest, truly honest, with ourselves we cannot be dishonest with anyone. If our motto is integrity, we always have what we need. We sleep soundly resting in the assurance that we do not have to worry about what we have said or done.

Translating this principle to your efforts on the Internet is critical as you develop the contents of your website and online communications. Remember that the Internet is the quintessential and ubiquitous communications medium. By design it is everywhere, all the time. The communities that define the Internet, people (all of us) coming together around common interests, have unprecedented access to information, yours and everyone else’s. Therefore, make sure what you publish is honest and true. Simple, right?

The simple truth of the matter is that all of life is governed by the principle of cause and effect. We have all heard this law repeated in various forms from scriptural to cultural; You reap what you sow - For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – What comes around goes around. Failure to heed this law will result in certain disappointment. This is especially true of the information that you publish and communicate, or the business that you do, on the Internet.

There is a term “Internet Time,” that gets bandied about in relation to the speed with which change occurs or things happen online. I have always correlated this term, or concept, to another very familiar concept, dog years, the 7:1 ratio of the age of a dog to a human. In other words, the dog ages 7 times faster than a human. The correlation is a simple one: Change occurs and things happen 7 times faster on the Internet than they do in the dirt-world.

At a purely pragmatic level, honesty is the best policy. Frankly, it is the only policy online. With the law of cause and effect and the concept of Internet Time in mind, imagine if you will the potential impact of putting information out there that isn’t absolutely true, or doing business online that is not honest according to our previous definition. Understand that this dishonest effort will most certainly bring those “chickens home to roost.” When and how significant the unfailing blow will be, nobody can tell. However, you can be sure that “the other shoe will drop.”

By comparison lets look at the upside potential of this example. If the information that you publish and the business that you conduct online is honest and true, it stands to reason that the reward that you will receive will come to you 7 times faster, right? Absolutely! Not only that but just as the punishment always seems to be greater than the crime, the rewards for our Integrity will be out of all proportion to our honest efforts. It is our choice.