Monday, March 31, 2008

The Risk of Living True to Your Values

We're told (ad nauseam) to live true to your values. Yet if those values dare be politically incorrect, your career and personal life may well suffer. For example, how do you think a person's career and friendships might fare if the person lived these values:
  • Society should devote more resources to smart kids than to low achievers.
  • Reverse discrimination in employment and college admission is rampant and bad for society.
  • Insufficient evidence yet exists to justify massive efforts to attempt to stop climate change.
Those who have suffered slings and arrows from living their values may take a bit of encouragement from what Einstein said, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

It's a hard choice to make, but a person facing this question needs to decide what is more important. They have to decide over and over again if their values are more important or if the people in their lives are more important. Sometimes the people will win. Slings and arrows can only be suffered for so long.

For most, the question is never raised. Most people are not types prone to rocking the boat. They also are often surrounded (protected? cushioned?) by like-minded people.

If I had such people in my life that I cared about, I would like to think that I'd encourage them to continue being true to their values, even if I disagreed with them. So often we only support our loved ones when we agree or if their cause is a popular one. Sometimes it's worth it to support them even in disagreement. You may be one of only a handful in their corner, and your support might be needed and appreciated more than ever.

Marty Nemko said...

Dear Anonymous,

What a lovely, and I believe wise, comment.

I'd like to know who you are--I won't tell anyone.

Feel free to email me at

Mark Goulston said...

The woman reached over to her dying husband and tenderly rubbed his wrist and said: "I have a confession to make, I have lied to you for 60 years."

Groggy with the morphine in his system, he smiled weakly and said: "Huh?"

She continued: "Yes, I lied to you. For sixty years I have been absolutely crazy about you sexually, but I never let you know, because I knew you loved the chase."

He put his hand on top of hers and smiled weakly: "That's one of the things I loved you for."

Was she being untrue to her values or was she a very wise woman who had herself a very lucky husband.

Charles said...

I have been estranged from my father for more years than not. There are few moments that I recall where he gave me sincere advice that really resonated with me. One of them is when he told me that when you're SURE that you're right--stick to your guns--no matter what the consequences may be.

I would like to think that is good advice, because even if you end up being wrong, there is a lesson to be learned. Wise men welcome problems as learning opportunities. Most people just complain about theirs.

Many men have faced opposition, self-doubt, hardship, and failure, but great men with conviction(s) are the ones who ultimately persevere and accomplish things that have a positive impact.

If you find yourself on the Internet looking for moral support, maybe you should ask yourself, "Is this just a bout of self-doubt, or am I lacking in conviction?"

Marty Nemko said...

Mark, thank you for your post. However, the situations aren't analogous. If a wife pretends to need to be seduced by her husband, no one is hurt and she clearly did not feel she was living contrary to one of her core values.

It's very different in the case when, for example, a person's core belief is that liberal policies are devastating to the country yet if he speaks up, he risks his career.

Marty Nemko said...

I didn't write that post to obtain support, although we all like to be agreed with. I wrote it mainly because I am deeply concerned that the Left's domination of the most influential media has caused censorship of important views just as McCarthyism on the Right suppressed important views 60 years ago.

Mark Goulston said...

It is a challenge for me with clients I work with. Usually what they want is not what they need, and what they need to be successful in the long run is not what they want.

A common problem I have run into with Venture Capitalists and Investment Bankers is there not wanting to address some of the core dysfunctions in a company if it will distract people from getting the deal closed. I can understand that and realize that sometimes it is not a matter of values, but a matter of staging and strategy, where you need to address somethings at one stage even if it doesn't make sense in the long run.

I remember Jack Welch when at GE being asked what is the responsibility of a large for profit company to the community. He said in true Jack Welch fashion: "The main responsibility of a for profit company is to make lots of money. Then if has made a profit and has community values it will use some of the money to help the community. If it focuses too early on helping the community and not on being successful it won't be around long enough to help anyone."

Of course such words can be a slippery slope of self-delusion, where companies keep making more money and then because of greed and hoarding of money and power, they never do help the community.

scott lubbock said...

My first response vanished into thin air after 'rolling' smoothly off my fingertips, but I will try to recreate as much as I can with respect to living true to ones values and the future of bright young men. First, I would be more concerned about the risks of not living true to my values since I must be comfortable living in my own skin before I can live anywhere else. The idea of acting genuinely from one's self is often misinterpreted as living selfishly, as if one's best interest cannot harmonize with the best interest of the community, as if compassion, generosity of spirit and a concern for the greater good cannot survive the filter of one's intellect and personal aspirations. Smart thinking and smart action shaped by informed emotion serve us well. In fact, I believe that our failure to recognize, support and nurture the potential of bright boys is a waste of very valuable resources. Too often, boys behaving as boys (i.e. as they have been taught to behave) are written off by our conventional educational institutions, and that reinforces old failures of the system. It continues to prepare them to be disposable providers, cannon fodder and angry conformists or non-conformists. Educational opportunities that better discover and develop the strength, energy and creativity of young men in settings that encourage the balance of intellect and
informed emotion will introduce us to boys, young men and leaders in community, business and science who will dismantle the myth that personal aspiration/satisfaction cannot complement community wellness, that personal power does not always seek acquisition and possession...a common fear of strong, young men. Supporting and developing our brightest resources is not the same as ignoring those less intelligent or less creative who are often directed to aspirations likely to reinforce their disappointment in themselves and their lives. Better to prepare them for successes that can be valued and appreciated for their contribution to the community, but let's not pretend everyone has the same capacity to contribute in the same way or even as they would wish to contribute.

scott lubbock said...

Marty, your posting about living true to our values has continued to alert my thought process about how to minimize unnecessary conflict and charges of political incorrectness because of what I value and life missions I support. It is so easy to dismiss the concerns of others if they fail to meet our particular standards. I believe one key is to focus as much creative energy as I can defining and acting upon what I believe in, that is, what I am for rather than what I am against. For example, how to better support and encourage bright, young men rather than the flaws in current allocation of resources. To the degree that I can keep my thoughts, words and actions directed at what I truly value, I can at least be known for what I value, what I am for rather than demonized by accusation of whom or what I am against. Scott Lubbock

Marty Nemko said...

True, Scott, I might get less resistance from feminists if I just stated what I believe boys deserve rather than explaining why the need was created in the first place--feminists having transformed schools into boy-unfriendly places.

The problem with your recommendation is that I believe it would result in less progress. Successful movements rarely start without leaders stimulating righteous indignation:

-- In pre-Revolutionary America, if our leaders didn't encourage righteous anger against the British (e.g., Paul Revere's Ride, the Boston Tea Party), we might be still living under a British king's taxation without representation.

-- If Blacks hadn't been driven to anger by its leaders such as Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, and the milder-mannered but still anger-engendering Martin Luther King, we would not have had such events as the Watts riots, which brought about massive new spending and reverse discrimination for Blacks.

-- If the early feminists (e.g., Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan) hadn't been fiery and encouraging of women to be angry, feminism might never have caught on.

-- If today's feminist leaders hadn't continued their stridency (e.g., Dee Dee Myers, author of Why Women Rule the World and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who wrote the book, Are Men Necessary) the feminist movement would not be continuing to accelerate.

It seems to me that unless men's leaders make men aware of and thus angry about today's terrible reverse discrimination against men and boys, males will be ever more squelched.

Anonymous said...


Don't be discouraged. Live your values. I promise that you're not alone. There are many of us; we're just not yet as vocal about it as you are.

Part of the problem I think you're facing is in where you live. I'm in SC. And although I see the things that worry you, I also see plenty who are like you.

Signed: Highly intelligent mom of a very gifted white boy.