Why in Business and in Life, It’s Important to Play by the Rules

This isn’t just another one of the thousands of articles, blogs, and stories sharing personal feelings of betrayal in light of Lance Armstrong’s recent confession to Oprah Winfrey.

There’s already been so much public outrage that anything I add about him would be redundant.

This is about something bigger and infinitely more important.

I’m more concerned about how I should frame this to my own kids.

Should we ignore the Armstrong story?

Not that I have to frame anything, mind you. My kids are now grown and gone; young adults with children of their own. Who am I to try to continue to shape their attitudes, habits, and beliefs?

Perhaps I should just ignore this sad story and let it taint their world view just a little more. (After all, the world today is chock-full of liars, cheats, and thieves. Isn’t is wise to have them keep their guard up and be suspicious of everyone?)

I could keep silent and allow their skepticism to grow about the role medical science is playing in all the record breaking athletic performances we’re seeing. (Because, hey, everyone dopes, and that makes it a level playing field, right?)

If we never discuss this, they might not feel like a sucker for selling and wearing those yellow bracelets back in high school. (Surely the money they raised for cancer atones for the fact that the compelling story behind it was all a sham.)

Yeah, maybe I’ll just keep my mouth shut and not say anything.

If only I could.

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Trust is better than cynicism

But I can’t stand by and allow them to feel stupid for believing in a hero, because there are still heroes among us. There are many great men and woman in sports, in business, in politics, and in life: people who play by the rules and are victorious. And when forced to compete against cheaters, real heroes still play by the rules.

It’s important for my kids to know and to remember that when hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and character collide, remarkable achievement always follows. And a victory of that variety can never be taken from you.

I want my children and grandchildren to believe in their fellow man, and to be more prone to trust others than to doubt them. Even if that “naive” outlook results in a trust that’s betrayed and an occasional defeat, it beats the hell out of going through life scared, cynical, and disillusioned.

Yeah, this is much more than the end of a sad story.

It’s an opportunity to shed light on some new ones.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester