I had an insightful conversation with a fellow advisor about future generations as it relates to the recent “college admissions scandal”. We both saw the magazine covers focusing on celebrity mothers as the public examples at every grocery store checkout line.
This associate shared his private opinion with them, along the lines of: “the 2019 bribery scandal is a symptom to a larger problem and we, advisors and coaches, can’t change today’s overall culture”. I agree with him that it comes down to each individual. But let us reflect on our existing culture for a few minutes, why it matters and what is at stake in each small decision. This article is about awareness compared to shame.
We all have a rite of passage to go through and yet, we hope that with the right teachers or mentors we will somehow find the shortcuts to get ahead or stack the odds in our favor. This makes me think of the saying: “it took me twenty years to become an overnight success”.
Over decades, we will be tested to prove our mettle through real life experiences. This initiation passage may or may not occur within a protected environment, no matter how much coin is shelled out in “money talks, BS walks”.
The irony is that, for instance, we can read about baking a cake from expensive. bespoke books. Or we can get out there and experience it for ourselves … the failure of the cake flopping.
The flopping will mean more in creating our memories and skills. We need to do the heavy lifting of the work itself. We may even enjoy getting our hands dirty.
Without a balanced approach to human development, studies show that even the best graduates of the top schools can find themselves depressed, lonely and without the conscious or subconscious education to success in the long run. Why? There are no guarantees to consistent performance. We have to be more than one trick ponies.
Yet with greed driving some choices, it may no longer be who is the best in application if it becomes who has the graft to slide some coin to gain the advantage or favor. Benefits are short term for the glory, but we don’t talk about that as much.
Also, no school or teacher can guarantee talent. Many times, we are born with, develop or enhance existing talents. You can’t make a cup of clay if you don’t have the clay to begin with — in other words, you can’t develop something that is not there. Some individuals are born a natural and others, stay mechanical in their flow of executing any level of a skill.
I am comparing the potential evolution of real talent to the generational influences standing by with their external or financial pressure. Individuals have to want it first in their internal desire. They, compared to their family or peer group, need to have some skin in the game — an emotional connection, deposit or full investment.
In countries outside of the US, bribes are often expected as a part of doing business. It has spread to many aspects of commerce today, including when one gets their car washed. When someone pulls in and is known for leaving heavy tips, who gets to be the first in line? The entitlement to buy services and products, as well as the influence with people, has always been there. It is just more blatant now to ask “What’s in it for me?” or “Leave the envelope on the desk”.
There is also intimidation and triangulation, which is used to get ahead for its quick effectiveness, in order to bully another and have one’s way in business. We just no longer gossip about this as it relates to having others in one’s pocket at the barbershop or salon.
If individuals only look good on paper, it will be to their detriment in the long run when they find themselves unprepared for all that life and business may ask of them. While some may leverage money to gain access to opportunity as “acceptable behavior”, it comes at a cost even to the highest bidder. What is the cost, you ask?
The loss of principles.
If any generation sets an example of breaking their own values, it can become normalized to follow suit. Whether it is not right or moral, it becomes second nature. It becomes our culture.
So if money is just one tool that supports our culture, perhaps this is not class warfare per se but rather a shortfall around values.
Who stands for principles? What principles in particular?
The shortsightedness of today’s pattern is that when it comes time to retain someone for a task, the individuals who worked hard and took personal responsibility have the muscles to solve real life problems. We also rarely appreciate what we have if we have never had to do it.
I won’t even get into other motivators in how individuals, or their group, seek to get ahead at the cost of principles.
There is a country song with a line about “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. If you do not have any principles, you are a boat without a rudder in the ocean — you have no course. Your rudder is your principles.
Just as you cannot buy class, you cannot buy principles either.
We can maintain a good face to the outer world but when we buy our way in through graft, does this serve who we want to become?
So what are a few possible solutions? Identify your driving principles, invest in your EQ and build your inner landscape of authenticity.
My grandfather, Richard Carleton, graduated from Harvard in 1935. While he was aware of the school’s status and opportunities, he still had to rely on his inner confidence, practical experiences and self-awareness related to introspection. He knew life was not a fairy tale given the Depression era.
I see people sacrifice their principals to win for the short-term gains. Yet, our due diligence is still needed in creating the cake to personally know, feel and own the transformation.
When we are competent and take pride in our work, there will be a demand in the market for what we can offer.
This will slowly change the culture.