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Primary & Secondary Greatness

I experienced one of those "Aha!" experiences in life when suddenly things click into place. I could see the powerful impact of the Personality Ethic and clearly understand those subtle, often consciously unidentified discrepencies between what I knew to be true - some things I had been taught many years ago as a child and things that were deep in my own inner sense of value - and the quick fix philosophies.

Elements of the Personality Ethic - personality growth, communication skill training, education in influence strategies and positive thinking - are essential for success, but these are secondary, not primary traits. Perhaps, in utilizing our human capacity to build on the foundation of generations before us, we have forgotten the foundation that holds it up; or in reaping for so long where we have not sown, perhaps we have forgotten the need to sow.

If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other - while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity - then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do will be perceived as manipulative. It makes no difference how good the intentions are; with little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique. To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don't pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind.

How rediculous would it be to try to cram on a farm - to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.

This principle is also true in human behaviour and human relationships. They, too, are natural systems based on the law of harvest. In the short run you may be able to learn how to manipulate man-made rules. You can use the Personality Ethic to get by and to make favourable impressions. But secondary traits alone have no permanent worth in long-term relationships. Eventually, if there isn't deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success.

Many people with secondary greatness - that is, social recognition for their talents - lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later, you'll see this in every long-term relationship they have. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say."

There are situations where people have character strength but they lack communication skills, and that undoubtedly affects the quality of relationships as well. But the effects are still secondary.

In the last analysis, what we ARE communicates far more eloquently than anything we SAY or DO. We all know it. There are people we trust absolutely because we know their character. Whether they're eloquent or not, whether they have the human relations techniques or not, we trust them, and we work successfully with them.

In the words of William George Jordan, "Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil - the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be."


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