Jim Baiar and Thomas Davis never knew each other, yet my experience tells me they were cut from the same cloth. One I barely knew, yet I know much about him because I know his son and grandson. The other I knew well, yet probably didn’t know well enough. Both were the kind of people who are harder to find than they used to be. People with the kind of character that builds families, companies, communities, and in some cases, entire countries.

Marcus Aurelius wrote extensively about how to become this kind of person. Studies of his life and his writings left those who analyzed them with the idea that his writings were intended as reminders about how to live his life. While they may have done so, it appears his writing has become much more – a list of reminders / lessons for the rest of us.

Change demands you make a choice

Based on what makes the news on any randomly chosen day, you might be tempted think there’s a shortage of good people in the world. There isn’t. In most cases, people doing good (even “boring” day-to-day good) are often too engaged in their lives to end up in the news, much less watch or listen to it.

My youngest graduated from law school a few weekends ago. After graduation, we talked a little about his future (conversations that will no doubt continue). I’m sure he’s aware that there are many corrupt, manipulative, evil lawyers in the world. You hear about them in frustrating news stories, both local and national. Likewise, there are corrupt (etc) politicians, programmers, executives, doctors, and so on. It isn’t the job. It’s the person and their choices.

The behavior of this group and the PR they attract (or generate) is a significant reason why people generally dislike attorneys. Sometimes it’s because people tend to interact with attorneys only at the “lowest”, most challenging period of their lives, because we observe them from afar as they defend corrupt, unethical, dangerous people, or because they say and do things on camera that are simply unfathomable to the rest of us.

I told him that “They made a choice to be that kind of lawyer, and to behave that way. I believe you will be the kind of lawyer that raises the average, but it’s a choice you’ll be faced on multiple occasions. Make the right choice and help the rest of the good ones raise the average.

While he’s young, idealistic, an Eagle Scout, and a few other things, he still needs reminders like this. We all need them. A brief, well-considered piece of advice to a newly graduated high school, college or post-graduate student is always a good investment. Not a lecture, simply a reminder to consider what they might face in the future. A similar comment to a new employee, a newly promoted employee, an employee who’s leaving, and so on…. all valuable if carefully made.

Change requires movement

Periods of change require people willing to invest in change. When it comes to periods of change, it’s always one decision or one person that starts it. SOMEONE has to start it, even if the motion in the direction of change is the tiniest little thing. Tony Robbins said “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change” I’m pretty sure he borrowed this from his mentor Jim Rohn, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Tired of the seemingly unending supply of unethical, if not downright evil people you hear about in the news? The movement that’s necessary to make the change needed to get rid of these people is really quite simple. Seek out people entering your line of work. Young, old, doesn’t matter. Make sure bad behavior isn’t rewarded. Get involved in their professional growth. Gain their trust, then teach, mentor, and advise them. Make a point of calling out poor behavior in professional settings and help them understand why that behavior is unacceptable – not just that it is.

If you make this contribution repeatedly, the right people will be ready to take over when someone is fired, convicted, or asked to retire. Hire and interview well. Mentor them. Eventually you’ll have a group of people to promote from whose character cannot and will not be stained. It won’t be easy, but the alternative is simply awful.

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