Earlier this week, I was at a business event filled with many incredible people. One of those people was Michael Fishman, who is an advisor to leading health experts and the founder of Consumer Health Summit. Michael is a friend of mine and a business colleague, and also a mentor in many ways.
There’s a quote: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That’s what happened to me this week, with Michael being my wise teacher.
In the midst of the event, and surrounded by many people, I told Michael I’d meet him for breakfast the next day.
Although I had good intentions, I also threw out that commitment frivolously. I was lackadaisical in my word.
Plans slightly changed over the 24 hours, but I didn’t communicate that clearly to Michael. In the end, I no-showed him twice and without clearly or respectfully communicating why.
Today, I had the opportunity to discuss with him what had happened, and he told me that my word is of universal importance.
Small things become big things.
If I’m serious about the goals I’m setting, I need to have complete integrity with the small stuff.
How I show up in the small stuff trains people in what to expect from me in general.
I knew Michael was right. Part of me wanted to resist or justify, at least to myself, why I was willing to lack integrity in that particular situation. But then I thought about the quote from Strategic Coach founder, Dan Sullivan, “All progress starts by telling the truth.”
If you’re serious about making a change, you have to face the fact that you’ve been wrong. There’s no room for justification. Only a pure admittance that you’ve been wrong about this thing.
Until you can admit, especially to yourself, that you’ve been wrong, then you haven’t really learned the lesson.
Lessons are repeated until they are learned.
In the words of American author, Florence Shinn, “Your word is your wand.” Use it wisely.
It was humbling having this conversation with Micheal. A person I love and respect. It made me think about the book Choice Theory: A Psychology Of Personal Freedom, which explains that, in our relationships, we tend to treat those who are closest to us the worst, and those most stranger with the most respect.
Think about it: who do we offer more autonomy and choice? Strangers or our family? We don’t force strangers to do what we want. But we often bark orders at those we call family.
Personally, I admitted to Michael that I often find it harder to say “No” to people I care most about. I’m more likely to say “Yes,” even if I don’t want to, to someone I’m close to. Moreover, given that I’m close to that person, I figure I can be a little lax about the relationship.
At least not when you’re in healthy relationships with self-respecting people. With low-energy people, such behavior is the norm and expected. When you evolve as a person, you stop allowing that level of integrity and energy in your atmosphere.
Sometimes, you need to be called out by someone who cares about you.
Sometimes, you can’t accurately see it until someone points it out, with grace and kindness, but firmness and self-respect.
I was grateful to be called out in a loving and safe environment by a friend and mentor.
I was further reminded of the quote from trauma expert, Dr. Peter Levine, who said, “Trauma isn’t what happens to you, but what you hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”
An empathetic witness is someone who gives you the space to see the truth; to process it in a safe environment and absorb it. That empathetic witness also encourages you to love yourself more, and to have higher sights for yourself; and not get stuck in old ways; or inprisoned in the pain of the past.
- We all need an empathetic witness.
- All progress starts by telling the truth.
- Lessons are repeated until learned.
- When the teacher is ready the student will appear.
- Your word is your wand.
- Your integrity as a person determines the quality of your relationships, especially with your own self.
Some hard and humbling truths.
This is why, if you want to go far in life, you need to be surrounded by amazing people. You need people to respect themselves enough to call you out when you’re disrespecting them.
I’m grateful for Michael Fishman, my friend, colleague, and mentor, who helped me today.
His words to me, “Embrace the freedom of honoring your word impeccably” was the lesson I needed today.
Integrity is freedom.
Commitment is freedom.
How is your level of integrity?
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.