I grew up with my Father telling me to do the right thing, for the right reason. For the longest time, I parroted it, not fully grasping the implications of it; i.e. what it truly meant and why it was important. Lately, that’s changed.
Since roughly last year October*, I’ve been on a new leg of my now 8 year long journey. That is – being able to live with who I am and slowly changing the parts of myself, with which I find difficult to live. As I’ve accumulated success and experience with women, I’ve not been the most moral or upright person. In fact, I describe it as having been a snake. I’ve not gone around selling people bridges or snake oil or gone around lying to everyone I know. But I have been very inwardly focused, selfish, and unfaithful when I dated. I lived almost entirely for myself, my own enjoyment, and my own satisfaction. If you ask me if I am or was a bad guy, I’d probably have a hard time giving you a straight answer. But what I can honestly say, is that on some level I was not satisfied with who I was. In fact, I was downright disappointed in who I had become. Though I attained success with women, it seemed as if I unwittingly traded something for it and came out worse for it. I’ve been trying to rectify that, by doing the right thing for the right reason, whether it meant telling a future girlfriend my past history or a current one, before we had sex, that I had HPV, and losing her in the process.
One of the ways my Father explained why he always sought to do the right thing for the right reason, was so that his conscience was clear no matter what happened. So that he had no trouble sleeping. So that in his mind, he was at peace with himself, regardless of what happens. That’s not to say he’s rolled over in the name of his principles, but he has paid a high personal price at times, for this modus-operandi.
I’ve noticed while watching my Father is that his character is near unassailable; impossible to be assassinated. A reputation for doing the right thing, for the right reason, has formed his shield and sword, at times, when he’s had to battle unscrupulous people in the realm of business. In my own family, everyone assumes the best of my Father as he’s proved himself, time and time again. In my own eyes, I’ve not laid witness to him breaking his principles of doing the right thing for the right reason ever.
Lastly – it seems like doing the right thing for the right reason has a cost up front that makes it difficult to do. But as you keep doing the right thing for the right reason, the cost gets lower; it gets easier to do. Eventually it gets to the point where it’s habit, and the cost is near non-existent, as far as you’re concerned, for the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, after enough time. In short, doing good rarely pays off in the short term, but pays handsomely in the long term.
Conversely, doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason carries a small cost, if any up front. But over time, it gets more and more costly. Often times, you do not know you’re paying for the negative consequences and outcomes until it stabs you in the back or bites you in the ass at the most inconvenient time (sounds like credit card debt). As you get further and further set in your ways, you either reap what you have sown and it’s painful, or you can kick the can down the road, double down on your ways, only to pay up later, and even more than you can fathom. It’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult to get out of, as you pay a price no matter what. The hit to your reputation and the difficulty of changing habits, will be with you long after you make the right decision.
*Inspired by the advise I’ve had in conversation with Ace and conversations I’ve had with my Father.