Do different better – an appeal to integrity

Note: I started writing this when a friend suggested that if I was going to do a TED talk to world leaders the day before I died, what would I speak about? This article below is what emerged. It is a bit of a rant, and it is most certainly incomplete.

As a subscriber of Sunday Syntropy, you are probably not one of the people I am speaking to. Hopefully, you are nodding to yourself as you read this. I invite comments and feedback, as always.

I am here to talk about integrity.

Such a little word. Yet a word we treat with such callous disregard. That same type of disregard with which we treat our Mother Earth. Our fellow humans.

You say that business without profit at all costs is not possible. That our market-based system works well: ‘Let the market decide.’ Except there is no such thing as a free market. Every market is regulated for right and wrong reasons, which, more often than not, ends up privileging the privileged.

You say we cannot change the systems that underpin our current world.

You know the systems I am referring to.

*How we measure stuff. Like GDP growth, where how many guns we make or sick people are in the hospitals or under an insurance scheme is essential to make our measure ‘work.’

While we ignore measuring or even accounting for the tender touch of the palliative care nurse as she whispers reassuringly to your father in his dying hours.

*Or legal codes that enable obscene wealth and power accumulation, codes that protect the already wealthy, hiding and obfuscating money flows, data and tax payments. Codes that keep the decision-makers free of accountability.

*Political systems where the greased palm is business-as-usual, even in the most “advanced” democracies where we do not call it corruption. Instead we dressup the corporate buyout of politicians in fancy titles and frilly words.

*Regulatory systems that privilege the powerful while stripping those with less power access or rights.

*Old school Media that cares less about truth and instead commodifies fear and lies.

*New school media that cares less about anything except eyes on the platform and the mother load of data that is scraped, repackaged and sold to the highest bidder, turning every human into fertile ground for spectacular propaganda.

I ask you. If we do not try to make a more beautiful, integrous world where we treat all life with respect, then tell me, how important are your relationships to those you love, including your unborn grandchildren? Do you believe you can buy your way through anything?

Integrity. From the root integer, One.

To be one. To be whole. To hold shape.

To be the very best version of you, entirely in resonance.

To be true. Honest. Your word. Trustworthy.


I want a world operating system with the beauty of integrity as one of a few core, non-negotiable elements. No exceptions.

I want to build and support enterprises where integrity is all the way up, down and through. Everywhere, all the time. No lies. Zero corruption. No exploitation. A refusal to sell the soul of the enterprise for profit or even to survive. If there is no way to survive, then perhaps surviving is not appropriate for the enterprise.

To live integrity as a human means that you go home every day and look yourself in the mirror and LIKE the person looking back.

You get to trust YOU. Really trust yourself! That you will not sabotage. Capitulate. Obscure. Deceive.

You get to trust yourself to your bones.

To live integrity as a steward leader means creating enterprises where what is said is done, and what is promised is delivered. What mistakes are made are owned, acknowledged and learned from.

Where people working within the enterprise and those the enterprise serves know we are our word. Solid. Straight. Transparent. Clean.

Integrity is beautiful.

Anything designed without integrity all the way up, down and through weaves in ugliness. Something looks, feels, sounds, tastes, or smells off, even if we cannot put our finger on what is off.

If we are not living our integrity, we become ugly. Ugly of word, deed or action. A small fester becomes rot.

People think I am naive when I talk about integrity this way, with passion and rigour—a fool.

Surely this level of integrity is not possible?


Why is this not possible?

Are we so addicted to winning at all costs, taking as much as we can, and living in the lie that there is not enough to go around?

How is that approach of win-lose working for our home Planet?

How is it working for the future we are building for our grandchildren?

What about incremental change? Surely that works if we are talking integrity.

Not! We do not get the privilege of celebrating exponential technology and innovation or worshipping at the Silicon Valley altar at the same time as asking for incremental or partial integrity.

Embedding integrity into everything we do is possible.

For those who still see this as naive, shift perspectives and ask the price of NOT embedding integrity.

Sure go to the Moon. Live on Mars.

I challenge you to walk the path of integrity as you figure out how to live on Mars. Better yet, before you do anything else, from today.

How about exponential integrity? How would we make that the next viral movement?

Not now, I am busy, says most of the world.

Integrity – to hold its shape.

What is your shape? I do not mean your physical body. I mean your values, the things that matter most to you when everything else is gone? What unique skills do you have that would gift the world for hundreds of years if you allowed it?

When do you know you are in flow, that your work is a delight and joy?

Imagine if you express yourself this way all of the time.

What a joy.

Integrity is a joy. It is living lite. Nothing unresolved from your past. No conversation or relationship incomplete. No lies or broken promises to clean up. No vengeance festering in the shadows of your psyche.

To truly laugh with joy is integrity. To be free of the burdens of the chasm of the unspoken. To be here now.

Integrity says do not steal. Never exploit.

Instead, honour, respect, and treat with dignity. Be kind.

Is this not the world you want?




Too hard, too big. Too much.

Those words spit in the face of any words about possibility and innovation.

No more buts.

Choose integrity.

Our world is at a threshold. If we keep doing what we have been doing, we are fools.

We must do different better. And not just by rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, thinking we are doing something that will make the difference.

Fiddling with the deck chairs might feel helpful, and we have certainly invested huge sums into doing precisely this – but the iceberg is real and inevitable.

We need to build a new boat. A truly innovative one. Designed for a world with a future for earth and all her creatures.

All her creatures, no exceptions.

Why not? Is that not the Moon shot? Is that not the most important question we can ask?

But but but? I have invested too much in this or that? I have my reputation built on this or that.

Too big. Perhaps we do not need to change that much. Maybe we can continue to tweak here and there. To conscious Capitalism. Or regenerative Capitalism.

No. Capitalism needs debt, cheap labour, more and more resources scraped from the earth, from labour, or our emotional being to thrive. Capitalism needs poverty and scarcity. Capitalism is the greedy caterpillar that eats all the leaves until there are no leaves.

We can do better.

Integrity wants oxygen. Your integrity might keep you awake in the dark, longing to be your true north in everything.

How do I know this?

I have spent decades working with high-achieving super, successful empire builders. As they speak of the shadows that lurk behind the successful facade, I have been their witness. I have heard, time and again, the cry for help—the sense of being trapped.

Their longing for integrity.

Building systems of integrity is an entirely different skill than the ones we have developed. Almost all of our current human-designed systems are missing integrity as the main thread.

More often than not, we take an out-of-the-box system like an LLC or Ltd and throw it like a wet blanket over our enterprise, hoping for a different result.

Often we do this reflexively, never questioning the air we breathe.

We must question the air we breathe.

I am here to make you uncomfortable. If I am not making you uncomfortable then I am failing. I want you to squirm in your chair, reach for the denial button, find the resistance, and hear your counter-argument.

Discomfort is good. It means you are perturbating, that your emotions are alive and kicking into gear.

I want to amplify the discomfort.

On the other side of staying in the status quo, of keeping everything nice and safe and business-as-usual, is a world where we live LITE. Where we get to go home and know we did everything, everything in our power and being, for integrity.

Your grandchildren’s children are calling you from their future. They are asking you what you did.

What did you do?

Did you choose integrity – all the way up down and through, or did you roll over and go back to work on same same?

In a Syntropic World – one that stands tall and fast on the idea that we can leave everything better – we choose integrity. No matter how hard. No matter the challenge. No matter how we are dismissed as idealists and fools.

To paraphrase Hillel the Elder – A Jewish religious leader from the first century BCE who originally said, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

If not now, when?

And if not me, who?

If not you? Who.

Do different better. Start with integrity.


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