You Might Not Be Who You Think You Are
Buy a doughnut and then you’ll know.
An Ethics Lesson from A Keynote Speaker – and a felon – shhhhh...
The three pillars of my message are Clarity, Choices, and Consequences. I believe, without the Clarity of who you are, you can’t always know what Choices you’re going to make. There are Consequences that you need to consider.
Let’s take it out of the context of your business or your career for a second.
You say it is clear to you that you’re a good person; ethical, and you probably are. But at your core, is this really clear? I mean, do you really really know this? Have you thought it through? Is it instinctual that you make the right choices? You say your answer is, yes. I believe you and, most importantly – you believe you.
You believe you’re clear on who you are, so you know you’ll make the right choices. Good!
You know you’re a good, ethical person, you’ll always make the right choices, so there’ll be no negative consequences. You are who you think you are and, you can stop reading right here.
But… what if you buy a doughnut?
You drive off from the convenient store after buying a doughnut and you realize the cashier gave you a $10 dollar bill instead of a $1 in change. Are you still who you think you are?
Let’s Play This Out
You stop off to buy a coffee and a doughnut on your way to work. You’re running a bit behind. There is a long line at the register because there’s only one cashier. Typical. You pay with cash because the credit card reader doesn’t work. Typical.
You get back in your car and spill just a little bit when you put your coffee in the holder. Crap! You set your doughnut and your change in the passenger’s seat. You’re now driving off. You take a left turn across the main street after waiting two minutes for an opening because there’s road construction if you take a right, which is the most efficient way to get to work.
You glance over to the passenger’s seat to grab your doughnut where there’s also your change. You see a $10 dollar bill instead of a $1. Aww, C’mon Man! You know it was supposed to be a $1. Are you who you think you are?
Ethics of Convenience
It might not be convenient at this moment to be who you think you are. What if it was a $20 dollar bill or $100? Do you continue to drive away or go back, stand in line to teach the cashier how to do math and help him count out the correct change? You’ll have to make that left turn again… and then you’ll definitely be late for work. Crap! Crap! Crap!
I believe, if you don’t have the clarity of who you are you won’t always make the choice you think you would make. And you wouldn’t or, couldn’t be thinking about the consequences.
Will there be legal consequences to you? Probably not. Will you experience psychological consequences? Are there consequences to anyone else? How about the cashier? Only you know YOU. Or do you? I say, you might not be who you think you are.
Is Bradley a Victim or Just an Idiot
Following, is a type of scenario that is not as unlikely as you might think.
At the end of the week, the cashier, Bradley, must make up, out of his wages, any shortages in the till. He makes $12.80 an hour, works 4-hour shifts 5 days a week. That’s $256 a week. He drives 20 miles each way to work every day, in an old run-down SUV that his brother is letting him use. It gets 15 miles to the gallon. Gas is $5 a gallon. That’s $13.33 round trip every day.
Bradley Economics 101 – Less Likely
Why is Brad using his brother’s gas-guzzler instead of the old 1985 Fiero that’s parked in his brother’s yard? Because the Fiero is only a 2-seater and on the way to work, Brad drops off his 4 kids at school and the ‘80s chick-magnet won’t hold the 4 little rug rats.
Why 4 kids? Some might say that maybe he shouldn’t have had 4 kids if he can’t support them. Well, his wife died last year from the covid and she was the primary bread winner in the family and – he hasn’t sold the kids yet but he’s thinking about it since the median price right now to raise 1 kid is $233,610 through the age of 17 – not adjusted for inflation. Since Bradley knows that he makes the right decisions when the right decisions aren’t easy, selling the kids is not really an option. Even though he’s obviously not that good at math, he’s pretty sure it would be several hundred-thousand-dollar swing in the loss.
Is the $10 coming out of Bradley’s check going to change his life? No. Are he and the kids still going to have Ramen AND hot dogs on pay day? Maybe.
What if Bradley makes the $100 change error when you buy your doughnut? And with that kind of shortage in the till, Brad not only has to pay back the money, but some stores have a policy that a $100 shortage is grounds for firing.
Sounds Like a Brad Problem
Sure does. Maybe you think, “It’s not my fault that Brad has a crappy life. Maybe he should learn how to count.” Right? It’s not your job to make sure Brad is doing his job correctly.
Yeah, I remember justifying a situation when I was in the real estate finance business. Some guys gave me documents that were almost certainly forged, and I said to myself, “It’s not my job to verify the authenticity of EVERY single document I receive.” If justifying is your modus operandi, then you are who you think you are – just make sure you know the consequences.
Clarity, Choices and Consequences
Take this ethics lesson from a keynote speaker if it so moves you. Maybe if you knew the consequences you would make sure you took the time to get the clarity to discover who you really are. If you do, I say your choices will be automatic. Give it a try.
Buy a doughnut because you might not be who you think you are.