Last week, I began our tour through the liminal dimension of business ethics as incarnated by John Bogle and the Vanguard Group mutual fund company.
We often feel it is other people who need coaching on ethics, not ourselves. I wonder about the number of us in financial services who consider continuing educational ethics courses “boring” because they seem so “common sense.” We can laugh at the “right” ethical behavior of looking out for #1 as exemplified in “Don’t Be the Bunny” from the musical Urinetown:
We laugh because we know we are neither like the wily father nor the naive daughter. Or are we?
Lest we think we’re immune to the temptations of success, check out the Prologue of Clayton Christensen’s provocative book How Will You Measure Your Life? Christensen provides a litany of Harvard classmates—among them, Jeffrey Skilling of Enron notoriety—who succumbed to the temptations:
Behind the façade of personal success, there were many who did not enjoy what they were doing for a living. There were, also, numerous stories of divorces of unhappy marriages. I remember one classmate who hadn’t talked to his children for years, who was living on the opposite coast from them. Another was on her third marriage since we’d graduated.
Consider your own success. Is it genuine or do you, too, have a façade?
The third aspect of this liminal dimension came through a Fred Craddock story Bogle relates. Craddock, a famed homiletician, tells the story of visiting a niece who took in a greyhound that was slated to receive his “final reward.” Craddock claims this interchange actually took place.
He asked the greyhound, “So why did you quit? Weren’t you making enough money?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. No, it wasn’t the money. I made my owner millions.”
“So he must’ve been cruel and beaten you.”
“Look, I don’t want to talk about it. No. He treated me great.”
“Well, there must be some reason you quit. Tell me what it is.”
“Okay, okay. After all that running, I found out the rabbit I was chasing wasn’t real. That’s why I quit.”
The third liminal dimension? Know your Big Why. Bogle knows what is real—he’s clear about the “rabbit” he’s chasing. While he says money allows you to buy what isn’t important, he clearly spends his on what is.
Bogle gives back to the students at Blair Academy and Princeton University, institutions that gave him the foundation to create the success he has had. He and his wife Eve have sponsored over 250 scholarship students to these schools over the years.
In my spiritual tradition, this is Holy Week. Followers of Jesus remember the trajectory of the human life of the Christ from Palm Sunday, when he was feted by the crowds, to the Passover meal and foot washing, through his brutal death on Good Friday, to his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
My Big Why is making a transformative difference in my life, my family’s lives, and the lives of my small business owner clients and all they love.
This is a great week to ask yourself: “What is my Big Why? Am I pleased at how I’m living it out?”