Living your dash with integrity – good for you, good for your business

My cousin was an entrepreneur all his life.  And a very successful one.  He lived his dash well, and he lived it with integrity.

The first time I heard the expression “living your dash” was at the memorial service for my mother-in-law.  She was one of the lucky ones, as were those of us who knew her; her dash went between the dates 1906 and 2003!  This expression was popularized by Linda Ellis’s poem The Dash; it provides a powerful metaphor for your life and helps us think about how our own dashes might be evaluated.

On my fridge I have an announcement of the passing fairly recently of my cousin, sorely missed.  It includes his picture, smiling broadly and looking as handsome as ever, his dates (separated by his dash), and a poem by David Harkins that begins: “You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile that he has lived.”  He would have loved that.

Both of these loved ones lived their dashes very well.  Hopefully, all of us will have people saying this of us when it is our turn.  I learned a lot from each of these people over the years.  From my mother-in-law I learned everyday things, like how to make gravy, and lessons in acceptance by observing her quietly positive, proactive approach to life through many, many ups and downs.  She also demonstrated by example that it’s never too late to learn or try new things.

From my cousin I learned something of what it was like to be an entrepreneur.  And I learned the importance – and gratification – of contributing to your community.   I also observed him demonstrating acceptance, understanding what he could change and what he couldn’t change.  But what springs to mind every time I think of Alan is his integrity.  He lived his life with integrity; he treated everyone he encountered as he would want to be treated and everyone knew that he would be true to his word.  He genuinely liked people and it showed.  Equally true, when there were unpleasant issues that had to be dealt with, he would take the principled approach that was needed, as difficult as it might be.

It strikes me that integrity may be the single most important quality to have for long-term success in business.  Leading your life with integrity means that people can trust you – explicitly and consistently.  You might be pleasant yet underhanded and get away with it for awhile, but inconsistent or unethical actions eventually catch up with you, and when they do, your reputation is damaged.  Once gone, getting it back is easier said than done.  People will always be on their guard with you.

Don’t get me wrong, you can’t be successful in business without a good product or service, good business skills, secure funding – the whole mix.  But considering all the challenges an entrepreneur is likely to experience over a lifetime – things like ups and downs in the economy, changes in trends, changes in regulations, and problematic competition, it is the ability to count on people over the long term that makes the difference.  By engaging with others with openness and consistency you develop the trust of customers, employees, partners, creditors, and the business community.  Everyone, really.

Needless to say, integrity is key to all good relationships, whether at home, at work or in other social relationships.  It makes life more pleasant for you and it’s good for business too!  How can you go wrong?  My cousin lived this philosophy.  Thank you for this legacy, Alan.

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7 Responses to Living your dash with integrity – good for you, good for your business

  1. Excellent post…thank you very much.

    Be encouraged!


    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Steve. Actually, I tried to include a para about the virtue challenge you have virtuously set for yourself and how Integrity is somewhere in the middle of your list of 119 virtues, but after I wrote it I couldn’t find a way to fit it in without disrupting the flow and confusing everyone but you and me! BTW, I’m still thinking about your most recent post! 🙂


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  3. pendantry says:

    I like the idea of ‘living your dash’. So much so that I went looking for, and found, ‘The Dash Poem‘. Thank you for this! 🙂


    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much for commenting, Pendantry. I loved that concept from the first time I heard it at my MIL’s funeral. I saw it included recently in a tribute to a young boy who had lost his short life to cancer and yet had made such an impact on his community throughout his fight. Lives well lived, living their dash.

      Liked by 1 person

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