Following the Voice of Your Conscience and The Importance of Courage
(This was a personal reflection which I wrote in 1994 in preparing a talk for my P&G associates)
There will be several turning points in all our lives – and in fact we may have to reach this most important turning point many times. It is the point at which we make the decision: “I will live by my conscience from this time forward to the best of my ability. I will not allow any voice, social mirror, scripting, even my own rationalizing to speak more clearly to me than the voice of conscience and, whatever the consequence, I will follow it.”
As Emerson said: “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
Of all the principles that guide us, the two most essential to peace of mind are contribution – making a valuable difference – and conscience – being trustworthy – to oneself and to others.
We know that our Company will only be as strong as the intelligence, judgment and character of our employees.
Our people … our values … our principles … they are the one competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated. Technology can be copied, capital can be bought, and strategies can be gleaned from what we do and from what others write. But values … principles … these cannot be copied and picked up. They flow from the heritage and character of the people who have been with and are with the Company today … the way we work together and the expectations we have of one another.
It is most difficult and often most important for you to hold your ground when you are most alone. Only conviction, strength of character and courage will let you do this. But there will be times in your life when it will be all important. Times when we must hold to our own convictions, not being swayed by others, even those of great repute.
It is useful to remind ourselves how often people of high reputation can get things wrong. Opinions about Stalin written in the years 1929-34, when he was in the process of liquidating ten million Russians as part of the collectivization of agriculture and farms, bear out the point. H.G. Wells said he had “never met a man more candid, fair and honest…no one is afraid of him and everybody trusts him.” Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, described him as leading “his people down new and unfamiliar avenues of democracy.”
The American Ambassador, Josephine Davies, reported him as having “insisted on the liberalization of the constitution. His brown eyes, exceedingly wise and gentle; a child would like to sit on his lap and a dog would sidle up to him.” Emile Ludwig, the famous popular biographer, found him to be a man “to whose care I would readily confide the education of my children.”
No matter who says what, no matter how small the group that supports your point of view, never fail to follow the voice of your conscience.JEP Journal – 1994 – Principles of Life_022012