Have you ever noticed how something good can slowly become bad? I’m thinking of things we start for good reasons that end up getting distorted and becoming bad. Here are some examples:
- In the Bible, the Pharisees, a religious sect of Judaism, aspired to be right with God. They knew the commandments but wanted to understand them more deeply. They knew “Thou shalt not work on the Sabbath” but wanted to understand exactly what work was. They set out to define it and laid a heavy burden on people in the name of God. It became work just to keep the law.
- Public schools have set standards for graduation because people thought our education system was slipping on the world stage. However, rather than bolster learning we started hearing about teachers “teaching to the test” and in some districts misrepresenting student scores. On the topic of school, grades are used to measure performance. After all, “What gets measured gets done.” Seeing a student with a high GPA is usually a good thing unless students are more concerned with the grade than what they’re learning.
- Faithfulness to marriage vows is a good thing. But what about couples who “stay together for the kids” and end up exposing them to a toxic environment at home?
- In business, bonuses are used to incent people to do certain things like increase profits or sales. Offering people incentives to work harder, longer or more creatively is good unless people begin to do some unethical things to hit the numbers.
As I noted in the opening, many things start out with a good intention but end up getting perverted in some way as people lose sight of the original intention. So what are you to do?
I believe we all need to understand why we’re asked to do what we do and occasionally we need to remind ourselves. I work in the insurance industry and I’m proud of that. Insurance isn’t a sexy industry like banking or financial investments but it’s every bit as necessary. When people ask me about what I do, I tell them I’m proud to be in insurance because we do two important things:
We help people. If someone has a loss (car accident, home damaged, business destroyed) we step in to help them get back on their feet and lessen the financial burden they would face otherwise. No one ever said, “Darn my insurance agent for selling me the right coverages and limits” after a loss but many have said, “Darn my agent for not selling me the right coverages and limits!”
We help the economy. What bank will lend you money to build a house or buy a building if you can’t guarantee to repay the amount in full if the property is damaged or destroyed? No financial institution would do that but with an insurance company promising to make that guarantee, money is lent, buildings are bought, which employs people to build them and building materials are sold. This creates a positive ripple throughout our economy.
This brings me more specifically to what I do at work 9 to 5 and with Influence PEOPLE. I teach people how to ethically persuade others. The driving force for me in this endeavor is to help people professionally and personally. I believe:
Professional success depends in large part on your ability to get others to say yes to you. Sales are not made without getting to yes. If you’re a manger your success depends on your team buying into your vision and strategy – getting a yes! Even if you’re not in sales or management you’re asking people to do things all day long.
Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human discovered through a survey of more than 7,000 business people that the typical non-sales employees spend upwards of 40% of their time trying to persuade others!
Personal happiness is quite often a result of getting a yes. Most people I know find that life is more pleasant when their spouse, significant other and/or kids willingly say yes to them. Understanding how to ethically persuade others can go a long ways toward making this happen.
If you’re like most people I’ve met, and including myself, then you may have things in life you started for the right reasons but may have “lost that loving feeling” and slowly slipped into a bad place. If that’s the case, step back and take time to remind yourself about who you are and why you choose to do what you do. If you can’t regain that old feeling and have the ability to let go of some things, then do so because you’ll enjoy what you pursue with passion more than what you have to drag yourself to do.