2.5: Prepare for Action: Establish Principles

“Would you like to know a quick and easy way to discern right from wrong?” I asked the students in a college class I was teaching. Every head bobbed enthusiastically up and down indicating they were interested.

“Before I tell you, let me say this.” I paused as the room went silent. The students leaned forward as I spoke in almost a whisper, “You already know right from wrong.”

Successful people live their lives with a natural sense of the difference between right and wrong. They have accepted pre-established standards that help them regulate and guide their thoughts, words and deeds.

These standards, these measures, are called principles. Principles are universal truths that have been broadly accepted in nearly every culture and every age.

Some years ago the Denver Broncos hired a coach by the name of Josh McDaniels. He was fined $50,000 by the NFL and fired by Broncos’ owner Pat Bolen for cheating. He was caught videotaping a practice session of the San Francisco 49ers before their game.

Do you think Josh McDaniels knew it was wrong to cheat when he used the illegally obtained video tape to prepare his team for the game? Of course he did, but he used it anyway. Pragmatism, in Josh McDaniels case, triumphed over principle and it cost him $50,000, his job, and relative football obscurity.

Tom Osborne led the University of Nebraska football team to national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997. After his stellar career as a coach he was elected by the citizens of Nebraska to the U.S. House of Representatives. After he retired from politics, in 2006 he was re-hired by the University as Athletic Director. On Jan 1, 2013 he retired from that job with his reputation fully intact and his legacy of honesty, integrity and authenticity assured.

A reliable source told me that throughout Osborne’s tenure as head coach that no one ever heard him use profanity even members of his coaching staff who each wore headsets and heard almost every word he spoke throughout the games.

No coach, no institution, and no country can long survive if decisions made and the actions taken are driven first by expediency and second (or third or fourth) by principle.

Coach McDaniels choose pragmatism; Coach Osborne chose principle.

Jesus told the story of a man who built his house on sand and when the winds and waves came up the house fell down. Another person built his house on solid rock saw it endure the storms and stand strong.

Live your life with moral principles that flow from natural law and you will live with favor, friends, and fulfillment. When you are buffeted by the winds of temptations and the storms of discouragement your house will stand and your legacy will be assured.

Thomas Jefferson summarized it this way: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Establish “matters of principle” for a delightful, meaningful, and well-regarded life.

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