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If you give yourself some inner law, has it been a constraint or an opportunity in finding your way in life ?

 March 2013


 BOTH! It has been a short term constraint both in managerial positions and also in selling my consulting services.  However, it has helped me in the long run to define myself and stand up for what I believe to be important.



Sometimes, it was a constraint, though I was ok with it. For instance, I sometimes refused to take a job, as a trainer or a consultant, as I did not feel right to help some clients because of the nature of their business.

Then, I progressively built my style, my way of doing in this activity. Not surprisingly, these were well in line with my ethical principles. However, it would not be right to say that my ethical principles shaped my style. First, this style took shape because I realized this was for me the way to best succeed in this work and to be the most useful to those I was working for. Second, all this progressed together. My ethical principles at work are clearer now than twenty years ago when I started this kind of job. Sometimes, ethics have shaped style, but also sometimes style and problems faced at work enabled me to refine my ethical principles.

 Then, ethics recently really helped me find my way in life. It was a moment where I was reaching a new phase in my life and when I was not fully clear about it. I was going to retire in a few months from the training institute I was working for, after another few months of planned transition when I was supposed to work much less. For family reasons, I needed this free time, but I also felt that I was reaching the end of  my involvement in this business, at least under this form, though I had enjoyed it very much in the past. Many jobs were no longer attracting me as they used to, they seemed to belong to the past. . A number of colleagues do retire but nevertheless keep taking the same jobs; they simply keep on working on a slower pace.  I felt that this would not work for me and that I was close to a real change in my life.  However I had no clear vision of what this new life would be, even if I had some ideas and, at least, some intuition of its general tone. Therefore, keeping doing things as before, with just a slower pace, was tempting…

Right at that time, I was offered a job, within the same training institute, which was about to start right when I was starting this pre-retirement period. It was attractive; the job was one of those I was still able to be motivated for and it would enable me to discover a new country and new culture.

I was ready to say « yes Â», thinking that, after all, keeping some regular business with this institute might be what I should do. In order to be 100% ok, I went to visit the client company’s website and  I realized it was mainly a manufacturer of chemical fertilizers. I have spent some part of my life defending and promoting organic agriculture and I still am a strong supporter of it. Thus, I did not need more than half a second to understand that I could not accept this offer, because it would be contrary to my deep convictions and my inner law. This struck me: I could have been offered the same type of job but for a client that would have been  acceptable to me, as this had often been the case in the past. Or it could have been a case where I would have at least hesitated, but this one was so clear…It was as if I was shown a crossroads where the easy way, which turned backwards, was blocked by a big barrier. This event was helpful, a bit like an electroshock. It gave me more energy to work on what my new life could become. It helped me realize that I was really coming to it and to a more radical change. In the next 48 hours, I gave a new impulse to one of my key projects in this respect.

By the way, on the same afternoon, I was sorting papers related to an aunt I had assisted in her last months and this reminded me of the strong experience I felt in being close to  someone passing away: a sharper awareness of myself and of the essential in life.



 See Marc T, Charles , Bertrand (CEOs change their lives) how ethics shaped their career, or at least some of their key choices.



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