Archive for June, 2011


Time-Tested Rules for All Who Seek to Move Ahead

June 29th, 2011
Jim Thomas

In this frantic age, A life of integrity—with all its advantages and benefits—may be more difficult than ever. This holds true for individuals, professionals, corporations, businesses, non-profits. What follows are rules that will serve you well. Provided: you are among those who seek the priceless advantages of trustworthiness, reputation, credibility, reliability, square dealing, and good will.

The Rules are neither exclusive nor unimpeachable, but they are reliable. They will reward all who follow them. They are found in part in Rules to Break and Laws to Follow, by Don and Pepper Rogers, John Wiley & Son, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2008, as supplemented by the writer.

  • Long-term value is as important as the current relationship—personal or otherwise–as the task at hand, the contract, case, patient, sales and profits.
  • Create value from current friends, customers, clients’ vendors, shareholders.
  • Earn and keep trust whatever you do.
  • Deliver good works, products, and services as promised, when promised, in the manner promised.
  • Maintain responsiveness to the point of view of those with whom you negotiate, solicit, and provide goods and services. This develops the irreplaceable climate of fairness.
  • Pay attention to the trust your associates, colleagues, and employees have in you.
  • The culture you promote and affirm with either will either drive up your value or drag it down.
  • If your ability to be fair to those with whom you transact business creates conflict, fix your model of conduct or get a new one.
  • Modern technology is a tool for creating trustworthiness and reputation. Get it and use it.
  • Customers, clients, patients, vendors, friends may forgive honest mistakes, but will never forgive dishonesty.
  • Promote dissent and diversity within your group. They stimulate creativity and innovation.
  • Tell the truth. Always tell the truth. Even when it hurts in the long run it will help.

There are other rules of the upright life, of course. But these will carry you far. Adopt and apply them to your advantage and to the advantage of others.

A German Jewish Chemist,Nitrogen,the 20th Century, and Integrity

June 22nd, 2011
Jim Thomas

Few know about him or his contribution to science and technology in the 20th century. Furthermore, his breakthrough discovery of a method for the fixation of nitrogen is one of the most underappreciated in history. At the very end of a fabulous career in chemical science, one marked by productivity and destruction, accolades and condemnation, he demonstrated the cardinal virtue of integrity in its purest form.

Here are the basics.

Franz Haber was a preeminent German Chemist of Jewish descent.
In 1909 he discovered a method for the fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere.
A means for capturing nitrogen from the air had bedeviled scientists for a century.
The Haber-Process, as it is known, allowed industry to produce huge quantities of nitrogen products for both agriculture and industry.
Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for food crops.
Nitrogen products are essential raw materials in the manufacture of explosives and munitions.
Across the 20th century farmers produced ever greater harvests thanks in large part to the availability of nitrogen-based plant food.
More food means more people. Two fifths of the world population would not be here, but for the Haber- Process.
Haber conceived and directed Germany’s launch of gas warfare during World War I, a feat for which he was widely condemned.
He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1919.

After the war, Haber became director of the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. On April 7, 1933, the Nazis overlooked Haber’s Jewish descent but demanded dismissal of his staff of Jewish scientists. In a display of iron-clad integrity, he flatly refused and resigned. His letter of resignation reads in part “…in a scientific post in choosing fellow workers, I take into account only professional qualifications and the character of the applicant…” Haber went into exile and died the following year in Boset Switzerland, age 66.

Want to Lose Your Self-Respect? Emulate Lt. keefer of the USS Caine

June 6th, 2011
Jim Thomas

Philosopher Nathaniel Brandon wrote that “…self respect is one asset no one can afford to lose.” And the writer, Kingsley Amis added, “Surrendered even for the best of reasons, it’s gone for certain and forever.”

An exemplary portrayal of self-respect abandoned is found in Herman Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Caine Mutiny. (Later, a superb movie starring Fred MacMurray as Keefer and Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg).

Lt. Keefer, third- in- command on the Caine, portrays a type that is alive and well. We find them in every sphere and sector of modern life—the individual who refuses to stand up and be counted when it counts.

In this World War II sea story, Captain Queeg takes command of an old destroyer-minesweeper operating in the Pacific Theater. After a series of bungled incidents aboard ship, Keefer concludes Queeg is either crazy or incompetent. He becomes outspoken among other officers and persuasive in sparking the revolt. Finally, in the crisis of a wild typhoon off the Philippines in December 1944, with the ship in mortal danger, and Queeg unable to function, executive officer Maryk relieves Queeg of command.

With Maryk at the helm, the Caine stabilizes and survives a typhoon. However, he is charged with mutiny and court martialed.

During court martial proceedings, Keefer is called as a witness for the prosecution. There he refuses to testify consistently with his numerous declarations of Queeg’s incompetency. In addition, he declines to support Maryk’s action that saved the ship. In essence, Keefer failed to affirm the very ideas he espoused so vigorously in private.

Maryk is acquitted. At the victory celebration, defense counsel charges Keefer with wanting to get Queeg all along “…while keeping your own skirts white and starchy.” Keefer can muster no response.

A colleague who sometimes disagreed with him said of Earl Warren, Governor of California and Chief Justice of the U.S Supreme Court, that “Warren stood up and was counted on every great issue of his age.”

The greatest single motivation for performance with integrity in the intent to maintain one’s self-respect. And, self-respect demands that we know what we stand for, that we are willing to stand for it, so others will know, too.