No matter how boring or old-fashioned his counsel (and some of it is, let's face it), once we process it earnestly, it resonates in the deepest crevices of our souls -- the type of wisdom that could literally transform us if we apply it.
Take, for example, this quote from one of his annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders years back:
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
How to ruin your reputation in five minutes.
Anyone's reputation, whole career, or success can quickly fall like a house of cards no matter the hard effort made or accolades won over the years. Just ask Martin Winterkorn, the former chief executive of Volkswagen, who resigned following the embarrassing diesel emissions deception and cover-up, in which he admitted responsibility.
What Buffett is alluding to in his discerning quote is that, without integrity running through your veins as the source of your decision-making process, and without integrity as your internal GPS system navigating you through life, you're going to eventually fail.
Buffett is so unmistakably assured that integrity is the life force that gives a person his or her influence and success, he once said that if you hire or promote people with intelligence and energy but who lack integrity, "you really want them to be dumb and lazy."
3 things you can do differently now.
The second part of Buffett's quote is equally important because it calls us to action. Every person is capable of operating within the parameters of integrity, but it's always a choice. Buffett once told a classroom full of University of Georgia students, "You can't change the way you are wired much, but you can change a lot of what you do with that wiring."
So what are three things you can do differently now, whatever your wiring? I posit that intentionally choosing to act on these three items will dramatically shift your reputation.
1. Surround yourself with people better than you.
Taking another chapter out of Buffett's endless wisdom, if you see any undesirable traits in yourself that are becoming detrimental to how you conduct work, business, or relate to people, you can get rid of them all by choosing to be around the right people -- the people who possess the very traits you find lacking in yourself. Your starting point: If you want to be admired by others, look around and ask yourself, "Whom do I admire?" Absorb everything they say and do, behave in a similar manner, and soon other people will begin to admire you.
2. Confront yourself with truth at all times, no matter how small a problem.
Albert Einstein once said, "Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters." I fully admit that, if I said I was living in total integrity, I'd be lying. We're human and flawed; we cut corners on the truth once in a while; and we are guilty of the occasional white lie. However, staying true to yourself and your values, even when the results may be unpopular, is always the right path. Remember the lesson: Five unethical minutes can dismantle 20 years of a solid reputation, burn bridges, and make quick enemies.
3. Practice displaying your authenticity.
Lets face it, authenticity doesn't come naturally. Sometimes it's more convenient to ignore hairy situations and avoid confrontations, as they can take up so much energy. Who likes drama? But sweeping things under the rug will lead to drama, and more conflict. If you really want to learn to show up with your best authentic-self, it's important to de-program habits that no longer serve you. Perhaps it's an enormous ego that always gets its way at the expense of others. Or maybe it's the way you order people around or forcefully command attention with a false charisma. Whatever the case, being authentic, I'll leave you with a life-changing prescription to kick-start your way to authenticity. Yoda, in the movie Empire Strikes Back, famously said, "You must unlearn what you have learned." That's great advice, even for a fictitious Jedi Master. So the $2 million questions are: What is it that you need to unlearn to be authentic? What do you need to unlearn to keep from ruining your reputation in five minutes?