Let’s say a client unexpectedly proposes a quick deal.
”You can get from this business the same amount you work for in a whole month. Don’t let it slip away!” that person would say.
- Would you accept a minor illegality attached to the deal and take that money?
- Would you maintain your standards even after a financially bad month — the worst month from the last five years of activity?
These questions are easy for a person with integrity. Anyway, temptations surround you, and it’s easier to commit a mistake than to do the right thing, isn’t it?
In this article, I’m going to share four stories from soccer, tennis, and chess, that will inspire you to bring out your standards even in tough situations.
Once upon a time, there was an eccentric soccer player for whom principles matter more than money, fame, and rules.
Di Canio’s denied penalty kicks
Paolo Di Canio was a fighter on the field but also an honest player.
In a match played for West Ham United, he dribbled past his opponents and entered the penalty area three times in a row, looking down, like a mad bull.
The defenders knocked him down each time, but the referee refused to dictate each of the well-deserved penalty kicks.
After the third denied penalty kick, instead of protesting loudly, Di Canio only asked to be substituted.
His standards were too high for the attitude of that referee.
Did he care about the passionate fans and the crowded stadium?
He just wanted to maintain his principles.
Fortunately, his coach refused to replace him, and Di Canio quickly pulled out a goal assist — he managed to use his anger productively.
But another match made Paolo Di Canio famous.
An easy goal with an injured keeper
He was about to receive a ball inside the penalty area, and all he had to do was kick the ball with his head.
Suddenly, Di Canio noticed that the goalkeeper was down, and the entire post was undefended — this could have been the easiest goal of his entire career.
Moreover, the match was about to end and his fans wanted the winning goal more than their family dinner.
Can you guess what Paolo Di Canio did?
He just caught the ball with his hands and allowed the medics to enter the field.
He didn’t assume that the opponent was faking an injury — Again, his standards didn’t allow him to score a goal this way.
Let’s move on to more individual sports.
A scream for a crucial point in tennis
After four exhausting hours, Tim Smyczek had the chance to defeat the legendary Rafa Nadal.
It was the decisive set, and both players focused intensively, but a fan shouted exactly during the Spanish player’s serve — that scream ruined the serve and helped Smyczek to win a precious point.
Surprisingly, Tim Smyczek rejected the undeserved point — he raised a hand and changed the winner.
He even lost the game but gained the respect of Nadal and the appreciation of the entire stadium.
For all those fans — he was the winner!
Tennis players and coaches offer us huge motivational tips if we listen carefully.
“My level of coaching wasn’t there, but my standards were always there,” said tennis coach Henner Nehles when asked what the ingredients for his success were. “My standards and the new level of coaching made me the present coach.”
His values helped him create a winning routine for his disciples before official confrontations. Nehles thinks that if athletes are a minute late for training, they will likely make mistakes during official matches.
Going back to the fair-play gesture, one can’t argue that Tim Smyczek respected his coaches and his training opponents.
Moreover, his professional mentality helped him establish in two seconds the deserved winner for that point.
The last story comes from chess. It’s personal and unforgettable.
A ringtone for a chess victory
My first official classical chess tournament challenged my standards. My opponent — also the man who hosted the event at his pension — had a higher rating, and I needed at least a draw to become an internationally rated player.
I had a small advantage — being two pawns up — but the situation was tense, and my heart wanted to jump out of my chest.
My best friend from chess describes me as a rollercoaster on the chessboard, and therefore that could have been my first win or a dramatic defeat.
Suddenly, my opponent’s phone rang in that silent hall where only chess clocks and deep sighs could be heard.
Our rigorous arbiter rushed to announce that I’m entitled to win the game because no phones were allowed inside the hall.
The arbiter had his own standards — he didn’t care that my opponent hosted us and that he sustained the local passion for chess.
I silently indicated that I want to continue the game and, the arbiter agreed with my decision. “The boy wants to continue it,” he said, cutting off my opponent’s long excuses.
Why did I do that when that man violated an official rule repeated to us before every game?
I had prepared like a boxer for that tournament and couldn’t admit to return home after winning due to a phone call.
Tough question (for me): With an inferior position on the chessboard, would I have made the same decision?
Well — I love to win, especially when medals are involved.
What I know for sure is that, at that precise moment, I didn’t mind losing — I would have gone home with dignity. Moreover, I felt that fate has to reward my fair play. Bonnie Hunt said it better:
When you fail by your own standards, it’s a form of success.
In the end, I won that game by playing precisely — like a computer. Unusual for me.
Sometimes I don’t have much time to reflect on my decisions, and it’s easy to get distracted. But how can I be sure that a quick action follows my standards?
My roots give me quick answers
When I need to consult my principles, I go back to my roots:
- the education received from my parents and grandparents;
- friendly neighbors;
- close friends and colleagues;
- the teachers who guided my growth.
If I imagine myself in front of these people, I can quickly find my answers.
The value of a person shows up in difficult situations, and it’s important to remember the principles we were raised on — they make us real after some masks fall.
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