- Standard of Business
- Producing Real Value
- The Harming of Others
- Directed Passion and Hard Work
- The Handshake
- Misdirection and Deception
- Partnerships of Trust
- Amorality of Money
- Money: A Means, Not an End
- The Great Liege Lord: Greed
- Human Relationships, Not Numbers
- Losing with Honor
- The Trap of Zero-Sum Thinking
- Align or Die!
- Creating Shared Stakeholder Value
- Capitalism: The Powers of Good and Evil
- Guarding Growth
In the latter part of 480 BC, two important battles, which likely shaped the path of Western civilization, were fought simultaneously, one on land and one on sea. They are known as the Battle of Themopylae and the Battle of Artemisium, respectively.
We often don’t hear much about the sea battle, as it tends to be overshadowed by the truths and legends born of the land battle. Immortalized in film the film 300, the fated last stand of the Greeks against the invading Persians has become the stuff of legends.
- A small band of approximately 7,000 Greeks, led by the Spartans withstood the assault of 100,000–150,000 invading Persians for several days.
- Following the discovery of a treacherous betrayal, Leonidas, the leader of the Greeks, sent many of the troops away leaving a rearguard of 300 Spartans and 1,100–1,400 others to protect the retreat.
- Almost all of the rearguard were killed in the ensuing battle, including Leonidas himself.
While this story is often revered as one telling of the power of defending one’s homeland, what really strikes me about the story is the fact the rearguard knew they were being handed a death sentence, and yet went willingly to their fate.
One can say it was part of their strict military training. And, particularly in the case of the Spartans, that is very true.
Now, I’m not going to go too deep into Spartan culture, as by today’s standards they had some barbaric practices not in keeping with what is now polite society. Yet, they were the strong military defense of the burgeoning ideas and practices of democracy, something for which we ought to be thankful.
In their eyes, their heroic last stand, which provided time for the retreating army and the evacuation of Athens, was a badge of honor. Even though they knew they were doomed, knew they would lose, they still stood up and took their place in defense of what they believed.
So, how does this apply to today?
I’m not likely to find myself strapping on armor, taking a sword and going out into the battlefield in search of a glorious last stand against an innumerable foe—at least not physically. Metaphorically is something entirely different.
Sometimes standing up for an ideal or doing what’s right can be a very difficult position. In fact, sometimes doing so will bring negative consequences that are neither desired nor sought after.
Sometimes, when in these circumstances, we will see a loophole whereby, if we’ll just bend the rules just a little bit, we’ll be able to escape some or all of the negative consequences. For me, that’s not acceptable.
I would rather lose with honor, than sacrifice it to win.
That’s a difficult position in which to find oneself, and I know not everyone shares my belief here. However, I am reminded by the internal struggle faced by Victor Hugo‘s character Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, when he finds that another man has been arrested in his stead, the Law believing this innocent to be Jean Valjean. He agonizes over what it will mean for him and those who depend on him, and sums it up in this simple phrase.
If I speak I am condemned. If I stay silent I am damned.
There seems to be no good answer, yet he cannot allow another innocent man to suffer in his stead. And so he makes his choice, knowing the worst of the consequences will fall on his own shoulders. He makes the honorable choice—saving the innocent man from incarceration.
Let us make the honorable choices, win or lose, as well.
Money dishonestly acquired is never worth its cost, while a good conscience never costs as much as it is worth.
~ Jean Antoine Petit-Senn
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