I remember a couple weeks after I graduated college going to the movies with some friends.  The girl behind the counter asked “student?”  We all said “yes”.  Of course, none of us were technically students anymore, but the girl behind the counter didn’t know that and she almost certainly didn’t care.  We all still had our students ID’s and we looked the same as when we were eligible for the student discount.  We joked about how many years it would be before we got called out on this little loophole.

But then my conscience started bothering me.  You see, one of the most important things in the world to me is that people trust me.  I want to be known as someone you can count on to do the right thing.  Someone who won’t screw you over.  Someone with integrity.

And in that moment it felt like I had sacrificed all of that to save a dollar.

So in one of my prouder moments, I turned around, walked back up to the counter and said to the surprised girl behind the desk “I’m not a student anymore. Sorry I lied.”

That was three years ago and since then I’ve had far bigger opportunities to stretch the truth for my own benefit.  In fact, the temptation to compromise my integrity is everywhere.  It would be so easy to tack on a couple extra hours when billing for some contract work.  It’s so easy to lie just to make myself look a little bit better than I am.  But integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching.  Every time I’m tempted I think back on the feeling I had as I walked away into that movie.

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

  • Beautiful post. I'm trying to be very integer too (do you even say integer?). I never cheat on public transportations and I even gave back a $20 bill recently to the person who dropped it in the train!

    I guess I've made my share of mistake and learnt that the worst punishment was to live with these mistakes.

    • Thanks and good for you! While it might cost you in the short term that stuff will pay off in the end.

  • Josh, we need more people like you in the world and especially in our field.

    • yeah, it's extremely important for our field but i'm surprised that it doesn't get discussed much. as computer geeks we have a massive amount of power — we have websites that store passwords, personal messages, credit card #'s, and more. it's cliche, but true, that with power comes responsibility.

  • "Treat others as you want them to treat you" – Hillel

    Great meeting you at Speaker practice last night 🙂