As part of our basketball team’s character education program we have a word of the week. The word of the week is a character trait that we as a team try to instill and implement into our lives. Each trait is taught by use of quotes, stories, and video clips. This week I am going to discuss integrity, which was our word of week last week.
What is integrity? It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot but I’m not sure many people take its’ meaning to heart. Simply put, integrity is doing the right thing. It’s the ability to do the right thing when no one else is watching over you. Ghandi once said, “To believe in something and not live it is dishonest.” To me this is the very essence of integrity. It’s putting your words, beliefs, and character into action. I want to share with you two stories I told my team on what integrity is.
The first story is about a carpenter. This carpenter was near the end of his career and went to his employer to tell him his plans of retirement. Upon hearing the news, the boss told the carpenter that he needed him to take on and complete one more job for him. The carpenter was to build one last house and he reluctantly agreed to do so. While working on this house, the carpenter began to cut corners and use cheap supplies. He used little to no precision when making measurements and putting the house together. After he finally finished with this last house, the carpenter went to his boss, gave him the keys, and said, “Here you go. I am finished.” The boss just smiled and shook the carpenter’s hand. He then returned the keys to the carpenter and said, ”Take the keys, the house is yours. It is the company’s gift to you for all of the hard work and dedication you have given us over the years.”
The moral of this story is that we are building our house everyday. That’s integrity. Every day we are laying our foundation. If we cut corners and lack precision, we end up with the broken house. Athletes need to understand that details matter, that little things make big things happen. Coaches need to teach the importance of fundamentals and paying attention to detail. All it takes is one bad decision, one lazy day, to take away a lifetime of hard work.
The second story is about the Emperor and the Seed. The emperor ruled the far east and was growing old. He knew he needed to choose his successor soon. Rather than choose one of his own children or an advisor, the emperor called all the children in from his kingdom. The children were shocked to hear that one of them would be chosen as the successor to the emperor. Each child was given a seed and told that they must take care of it for an entire year. In one year all the children were to return with what the seed had grown into and the emperor would then choose his successor.
One of the children there was a boy by the name of Ling. Ling took his seed home and his mother helped him to pot the seed and begin watering it. He watered and took care of his plant daily. Three weeks went by and Ling had nothing to show for his efforts. Six weeks in, still nothing. Six months had gone by Ling was hearing all the other children bragging about how big their plants were getting, but he still had nothing. Finally, the years’ time was up. Ling was ashamed and fearful to take his pot to the emperor’s palace, but his mother encouraged him to go and be honest. Ling was laughed at and made fun of by the other children because he was the only child there with no plant, just an empty pot. As the emperor entered the room and made his way to the stage, he was amazed at all the variety of all the big and beautiful plants that had grown.
Ling just stood in the back of the room and hoped to avoid the emperor’s eye. Suddenly, the emperor saw the boy in the back with the empty pot and sent his guards to bring up to the stage. As the guards approached, Ling was fearful of what the emperor would say and what his punishment would be for his failure. Once Ling was on stage, the other children just laughed at Ling. The emperor broke the laughter by saying, “Behold your new Emperor!” He explained that he had given every child a boiled seed and that Ling was only one who had the integrity not to cheat and to show up with his empty pot.
This story is the perfect illustration of how doing the right thing, even though it is often very difficult, will bring great things. If we can all be more like Ling, be true to what’s right and avoid peer pressure, we will go down a path that will bring numerous rewards. Take the road less traveled; there’s more at the end of it rather than the one that’s congested with those lacking integrity.
The sports world needs more people with integrity in it, especially after the Lance Armstrong debacle. Coaches need to model integrity for their athletes. It is not about the wins and losses, those come a dime a dozen. It is about giving your best to become the best you’re capable of being, without comprising your morals or integrity. If you can do that, then you are a winner, no matter what the scoreboard says. I will close with a quote from one of the great football coaches, Joe Gibbs: “Look for players with character and ability. But remember, character comes first.” I will take character over talent and ability any day of the week.
Thanks for reading, have a great week and be an RGP today!