Today’s post is the featured article from the August 2009 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

john-newOr do they actually just get the opportunity to finish? In the dating circles of high school, it was conventional wisdom that “good guys finish last.” I never did quite figure out the awkward psychology of such a perspective, but I would suggest maybe the better perspective would be to consider that the good guys actually get the opportunity to finish. Let me explain!

In my new book, GOOD to the CORE, we “called-out” a thought which seems to have resonated with many readers:

Living your core values can cost you.  Not living them can destroy you!

Destruction prevents completion. And we have seen evidence of it in every aspect of our life … business, politics and spiritual arenas. Almost every destruction can be tied to a breakdown in an individual’s or an organization’s core values … or the absence of intentional values. And none of us are immune from this possibility.

I would suggest we are becoming more vulnerable with each passing day. Partly because we live in a society where “the rules” are continually turning a lighter shade of grey. And partly because we are living at an exponentially increasing speed which blurs the landscape for even the most well-intentioned soul.

If good guys don’t finish, it is because they are systemically brought down by the shrapnel of the misguided actions of others. Not only are we vulnerable to our own temptations, but we are counting on those around us to have the backbone … the core … to withstand their own temptations.

Core values are intellectually easy to understand. But understanding the concept is only the beginning. Simply understanding the concept gets you nowhere. The “concept” of values becomes easy to abandon when the lure of “something” is calling … or the pressure of “results” is mounting. Think of the “concept” of values as being little more than being in a row boat in the middle of Lake Michigan … without a paddle. Or on a cruise ship in the Atlantic … without a motor. You might feel a façade of safety on a clear day, but come a storm … everything changes. Unspecified values offer little guidance. We need paddles and motors to navigate the tides of life … in the relationships of business, communities and families.

The real truth is most of us are adrift. And we have seen the results.

Simply put … there is nothing more strategic in a business plan than core values. They are not soft … and they certainly are not easy. But they are critical. You may have heard that “hope” is not a strategy. I embrace hope, but I would agree. Core values, on the other hand, are the backbone of any strategy … and without them, there is no hope.

I am hopeful in the renewed commitment I am seeing in leaders of substance taking their stand on core values. While decisions become easier … it is not a stand for weak leaders. Weak leaders hide behind short-term success, flavors-of-the-month and possibly even the opinion polls of followers who do the same.

The waves of the ocean are a powerful force. And so is temptation. The waves will lure you in. The waves of success. The waves of pleasure. The waves of a reframed truth for a short-term convenience. Waves will carry you … for a while. Subsequently, if they don’t crash upon you … at a minimum, they will let you down. Values simply won’t do that.

We all have to live with the reality that core values will cost you. They will demand from you. They will stretch you. They might make you feel vulnerable. They will sometimes isolate you.

But they will never let you down.

The tides of technology, speed and the systemic confusion of a globally connected community have the potential to leave every individual and every organization rudderless. What a pity it would be … especially when the paddle and the motor, all along, resided within us.

By definition, it would be impossible for a leader’s commitment to core values to be a flavor-of-the-month. Living from the core is a life-time sentence. Anything short of that, is just riding another wave. In the end … there is no finish line. And there in-lies the truth of why good guys finish last. They just never stop!

To be continued.