The cellphone is a remarkable invention. The idea that, in your pocket, there is a device that gives you access to nearly every other person on this planet is pretty surreal (There are almost as many cell-phone subscriptions – 6.8 billion – as there are people on this earth.)
That access has made our lives easier in a lot of ways. And then, with the addition of the smartphone, we now have instant access to any information available on the internet. The potential this could have for humanity has been dreamed of by history’s greatest philosophers…but, of course, we have once again dropped the ball when it comes to proper use of a platform such as ease of communication and access to information. Entertaining, but embarrassing. (Read: tinder, hilarious cat videos.)
What I want to get into, though, is just one of the shortcomings I’ve seen us adopt, often as a result of this amazing technology.
And that is a lack of integrity when it comes to keeping our word.
I was fortunate enough to have great examples of integrity growing up. My father had his shortcomings, like we all do, and I’ve talked about my complicated relationship with him in previous posts, but let me tell you this: he was a man who always kept his word, and who went out of his way to serve others. You know, he was the kind of man who owned a truck based on the simple reasoning that at some point, someone would need one to help them move, or on the off-chance he’d come across somebody stuck in a ditch during a bad snow storm, he could help them. The type of person people wouldn’t be afraid to call, because he would always answer, and say, “I’m on my way” before they’d even finish asking. My sister and eldest brother are also great examples of incredible integrity. When I first started to notice that everybody calls them when they need help, it didn’t take me long to realize why. Their word is their bond.
I’ve looked at that and said, “Yep, that’s who I want to be.”
It’s easy to disregard this, thinking to yourself, “I have enough of my own problems – why would I want anyone calling me when they need something?”
The most influential relationships I have are built on mutual trust and fellowship. It’s not just a matter of having helping hands when things get rough. It’s about maintaining a level of character that is above reproach. When you start to realize the influence you have on the people you interact with, just because you are actually known to do what you freakin’ say you’ll do, you will never go back. Who would? Who’d seriously want to go back to flaking out on their friend’s birthday party (who they promised, via text message, that they would attend.)
In the professional world, someone who keeps his word is a priceless asset. Any true leader has this quality and looks for it in his employees. I can’t tell you how many business owners and managers have practically begged me to work for them, not because I’m so perfect for whatever position they have free, or because I can do no wrong, but because they are sick and tired of dealing with lazy liars who always call in for one reason or another (the amount of dead grandmothers and flat tires the average employer hears about is very disproportionate to the real figures, I can tell you that…)
This kind of thing nowadays is so easy to do. No one has to see you sweat. They don’t have the chance to convince you they’re worth your time, or all you have to do is delete that email. Not answer that text. You said you’d call at noon on tuesday, but they’ve probably forgotten. It was just a telephone meeting/interview/catchup; you can’t get in trouble.
Why is there, I wonder, a disconnect between what you tell someone in virtual form (email, text etc.) and what you actually do? Are you thinking to yourself, perhaps (and who hasn’t, at least once), that because all of YOUR friends flake out on you on occasion, that it’s perfectly acceptable for you to do it as well?
I’ve got news for you. It’s not – you might just have lousy friends. You might just BE a lousy friend. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent. It won’t stain you forever (right?), but it’s time to change.
I guess my point here is, for some reason, some of us believe that these little nuances of social interaction don’t matter, that they’re not entirely real because they’re on our screens, but they do and they are. It may be hard to fathom that an email from your boss or your mother is concrete, and important, and full of opportunities and consequences… when it comes from the same screen you just used to watch the latest youtube-star vine mash-up involving stop-motion broomstick-flying. But these social interactions we have, they will still effect every single relationship and connection we make; they can either severely limit our potential, or enable us to soar to new heights of influence and respect.
Next time you say, “I’ll be there” …be there! Next time you offer help, follow through. Next time you tell someone, “Hey, I know a great hair stylist, I’ll get you her number,” get them that number! In summation, like one of my good friends from New Zealand always says, “Just blimin’ do what you say you’re gonna do!”
Don’t tell me, show me.