I’m reading Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq, by Jim Frederick. In this case, members of an American Army platoon, after a devastating unraveling of events, murdered and raped an innocent Iraqi family of four. The entire book is about Character. As you read it the Character Triangle lessons seep through every page. Black Hearts is about the most serious decay of character; when the moral compass is lost in every way. Throughout the book Frederick points out the confusion between accountability and blame at every level.
Even if you haven’t read the book…listen to the following quote from Sergeant John Diem after a blaming session between brass and troops, as captured by Frederick… “If Colonel Kunk got up and said, “I *****d too. I have allowed you guys to turn into monsters. And I have completely forsaken you when you needed the support that only I had the power to provide. But I lacked the Character to do it. All of you failed. Me, and we as a family, as a 1st Battalion, Bravo Company, 1st Platoon, all the way down the line, have failed, …but nobody’s got the grit to say that. Everybody wants to say, “But it wasn’t my fault.””
This Spring a case of a high school girl taking her life after continued bullying, even in front of teachers, upset us all again. Celebrity shrinks like Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew and many other psychologists have provided an analytical perspective. At the end of the analysis is the Character Triangle.
Although we know this, it’s important to model and teach kids to apply the Character Triangle (CT) values. The most obvious one is Respect. The verbal and physical “attacking” seen in these bullying cases is the exact opposite. In fact, some research states that verbal abuse is more harmful than physical. Self-accountable people take responsibility for their behavior and refrain from bullying, and also speak up to stop it when observing the behavior from others. In the above case apparently students and teachers watched kids blatantly abuse the targeted student and did little or nothing to intervene.
This is a major issue in the school halls and cafeterias. However, bullying happens in the office, it is now regularly over the internet and applying the CT can help make a difference to overcome this issue.
That’s the title of Lawrence Scanlan’s book; his experiences hop-scotching charities. His experiences and observation reinforces the sense of purpose and fulfillment generated from helping others. What does it mean to give?
Giving comes from a sense of believing that we have enough to give; acting abundant. While there are the big, broad strokes of generosity, so much can be achieved by continuous “drops” of little things.
During our many hours of work we can lend a hand on a project, get someone a glass of water, pass on a tip on a software application and on and on. However, what I’m describing is more than simple courtesy. Acting with Character is being conscious and present while proactively choosing to live with abundance.
Try a day of living generously at work.
John Bogle’s book Enough has a chapter has some profound insights on the performance of business and Wall Street. Bogle was the Founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group. One chapter is entitled, “Too Much Success, Not Enough Character.” It’s worth a read.
At a party given by a billionaire in Shelter Island, NY, novelist Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch 22, over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes but I have something he will never have…enough.”
Abundant thinking people always want to add more value in any exchange. But they come from a perspective of “enough.” They are more interested in giving than getting.
I traveled with a couple of colleagues on a recent business trip. It was interesting to observe the behavior of one of the folks on the journey. When you spend a week together things become exposed. This person would walk through doors first without remembering we were behind him, and throw his luggage first in the trunk without concern where we put ours. This person also treated wait staff rudely in restaurants. I had never traveled extensively with this person before and was a little surprised (in fact, I need to give him this feedback). I believe that this person behaves this way, not because he is intentionally disrespectful, but because he lives in his head. Without noticing, he just doesn’t think about the people around him.
Observe people and the extent they are thoughtful and aware of people around them. That’s why some hiring managers insist on having a meal with a top prospect. How they treat the servers in a restaurant will tell you more than what they say about respecting people.