Recently, I was giving a lecture via ZOOM to my international students on the importance of “honesty and integrity”. I used the following story as a teaching tool –
“A successful businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.
He said, ‘It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. ‘The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. ‘I am going to give each one of you a SEED today – one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.’
One man, named Richard, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Richard kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.
Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing.
By now, others were talking about their plants, but Richard didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by — still nothing in Richard’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Richard didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – He so wanted the seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Richard told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot…
But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Richard felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the boardroom. When Richard arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful — in all shapes and sizes. Richard put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!
When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.
Richard just tried to hide in the back. ‘My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,’ said the CEO. ‘Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!’
All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Richard at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Richard was terrified. He thought, ‘The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!’
When Richard got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Richard told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Richard. He looked at Richard, and then announced to the young executives, ‘Behold your next Chief Executive Officer!
His name is Richard!’ Richard couldn’t believe it. Richard couldn’t even grow his seed.
‘How could he be the new CEO?’ the others said.
Then the CEO said, ‘One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow.
All of you, except Richard, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Richard was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it.
Therefore, he has shown courage, honesty and integrity and I know he will run this company with conscience.”
Over the years, I have read variations of this story credited to anonymity. This story communicates a simple truth: on your journey to success, don’t be tempted to take moral shortcuts. No achievement is worth compromising your values. Don’t spend your whole life climbing the success ladder only to discover it has been leaning on the wrong wall the whole time.
Seek to grow in character with honesty and integrity. Build a foundation that can support a lifetime of success and achievement. Remember, whatever you give to life, life gives back to you.
Finally, in terms of life lessons it is worth repeating and to reinforce the following which have been shared by other life coaches in the past:
If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
If you plant hard work, you will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation
If you plant faith in GOD, you will reap a harvest
So, my question for you today is – what are YOU planting right now?