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So you steal from your employer, because you say you want to start your business and then you expect your business to be a success.

Once you start your business like that, you started on a slippery foundation.

Integrity is not something that you switch on and off, depending on your circumstances.

The path is pretty clear: You choose between right and wrong.

The temptation is to always say, I will do wrong, just this once, besides no one will find out.

The problem with this “just this once, I will never get caught” approach is that yes, you are right, you might not get caught.

But no, you are wrong, “just this once” does not always end up being “just this once.”

Once you do it, “just this once,” you will in most likelihood do it again, and maybe you won’t get caught the second time.

If you have done once, nothing will stop you from doing it again, so you do it again, and again, the next thing you know, it is a habit, and at some point you will get caught because the truth always comes out.

A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people should not do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s okay.”

You pay a bribe to the traffic cop, “just this once.”

You cook the books so that auditors don’t find out, “just this once.”

You take an idea from partner and pretend as if it’s yours, “just this once.”

You cheat, “just this once.”

You manipulate people to meet your selfish needs, “just this once.”

And the voice in our head seems to be right; the price of doing something wrong “just this once” usually appears very low.

It sucks you in, and you don’t see where that path is ultimately headed or the full cost that the choice entails.

Many of us have convinced ourselves that we are able to break our own personal rules “just this once.”

In our minds, we can justify these small choices.

None of those things, when they first happen, feels like a life-changing decision.

The marginal costs are almost always low.

But each of those decisions can roll up into a much bigger picture, turning you into the kind of person you never wanted to be.

Paying bribes ends up being your way to get out of every traffic misdemeanor.

You end up cooking books not only for auditors not to find out, but for your boss, the Board, shareholders not to find out too.

The temporary thrill of cheating, cutting corners, manipulating people becomes second nature to you because your conscience is used to being ignored.

When you overrule or ignore your conscience once, nothing stops you from do it again.

“Just this once,” doesn’t always end being “just this once.”

What starts as a small thing, usually has the potential to turn into something big.

What you get by compromise, you maintain by compromise.

A conscience is a moral compass, it should always point north.

Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.

 

 

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