So what could I say to 700 bankers, investors, and lawyers deeply involved in the commercial real estate market?
I started with a simple point: external economic forces beyond our control can diminish, even decimate, every form of financial asset, but the most important asset we possess, integrity, can only be destroyed by our own choices. And those who sacrifice integrity to save their fortunes eventually lose both.
I showed a cartoon with the caption: “This might not be ethical. Is that a problem for anybody?” to make the point that ethics is not simply a factor to consider; it’s a ground rule. People who treasure their integrity summon the strength to do the right thing even when it costs more than they want to pay.
Another cartoon depicted a conference table of executives. The head honcho points to a woman with an armful of blindfolds and announces: “Miss Jensen will now hand out the moral blinders.” The message: try as we might, we can’t avoid ethical responsibilities by covering our eyes. Our obligation to be honest, fair, and responsible doesn’t go away just because we refuse to acknowledge it.
Speaking of the turmoil before the American Revolution, Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Well, tough times like these always try our souls and test our character.
The next year or so will be like a character boot camp where our moral backbone will be either strengthened or broken.
While we can’t know when, it’s absolutely certain that this dark period will end. And when it does, only those who protected and preserved their integrity will emerge with the credibility to restore everything they lost.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.