Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Doing The Right Thing

No, I'm not referring to the movie.

Last night Mom was watching the Glen Beck show on CNN. Personally, I think he's a fruitcake and a hate monger, but that's just me. His guest was Jon Huntsman, a very accomplished business man and philanthropist. In the course of his lifetime this man has lost and made hundreds of millions of dollars. One of his most enduring achievements is the founding of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. ( This institute is doing amazing things in the area of cancer research. Not only are they looking to cure cancer, they are looking to prevent it as well.

According to his book, Winners Never Cheat, around 2001 his company took a huge financial hit. In order to come up with the working capital to make his commitments, payroll etc - he put 40% of his company up for sale. After long negotiations, he and the buyer came to an agreement of 53 million dollars. The men shook hands in agreement.

As with most business deals, the lawyers then come in and tidy everything up. It took six months for the paperwork to be finalized and in that time, Huntsman's company came back with a vengeance and the 40% of the company was now worth 250 million dollars. The buyer came back to Jon and said, "Look, let's split the difference and I'll pay you 125million."

Huntsman's response was, "No, I shook your hand over the deal, you will pay me 53 million dollars, it's a done deal."

This man sold 40% of his company and lost almost 200 million dollars.

Huntsman then turns around and has to go to the banks to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to meet his financial obligations. When I'm talking about financial obligations, I'm not talking about payroll, I'm referring to his charity contributions. He'd given his word to meet these obligations to charities and he took out loans to do it.

This man lost 200 million, then took out hundreds of millions more to pay to charities - both of which he'd shook hands on.

So why am I bringing this up?

Growing up, my father instilled these same values in his children. A man's word was his bond and shaking hands on it was as good as a signed and sealed contract. It used to be this was the rule, not the exception.

No matter what a decision will cost you personally, if you give your word then it should be a done deal. The only thing you really have in life is your reputation as a human being, your money and external accomplishments say very little about the core essence of a person.

So why am I bringing this up?

This morning the news reported that a new poll indicated that a growing minority of teens believe it is okay to lie, cheat and bully your way through life. That it is okay to physically accost a coworker as long as they are on the same level as you.

And this is the generation that will be running America when you and I are in our seventies.

This news report made me incredibly sad. Not only do I think we've forgotten where we come from, but we've lost our way as well. No longer is it enough to be a good person, you now have to have eyes in the back of your head so you can watch people as they stab you in the back to get up that ladder of life.

I don't know about anyone else but I don't want to live in that kind of world. In general I do believe in the goodness of people, but I also believe that we all could use a reminder of who we are and where we came from. That's what the Huntsman interview did for me. I was raised right, to do the right thing no matter the personal consequences and I will continue to do so.

According to Huntsman, when the man who bought the 40% of his company passed away, it was in his will to ask Huntsman to speak at his funeral. Huntsman said it was one of the greatest honors of his life and worth far more than 200 million dollars.

I agree.

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