Thursday, June 28, 2007

Self-Integrity – The Foundation of Ethical Decisions

“As authentic self-knowledge begins to unfold, our principles, thoughts, commitments, and actions rise up to be in accord with who we truly are.” (Yasukiko Genku Kimura)

Typically, integrity is perceived as it relates to the external world such as integrity in relationships, integrity in business, or integrity in financial decisions – as examples. There is much said on the subject today as the country, as a whole, evaluates and debates ethical behavior. Many have said that Kenneth Lay and others lacked integrity because of their participation in, what most would call unethical decisions. Yet, people who knew Kenneth Lay believed him to be a man of high standards.

How did he get involved in business issues that lacked integrity or ethics? Many have said that he and many others never intended to do wrong. What happened? They were lead by their ego rather than by their authentic self?

Self integrity is truly the foundation of ethical behavior. Wikipedia defines integrity as “the basing of one’s actions on a consistent framework of principles and adherence of each level to the next are key determining factors. One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything he/she does and believes is based on the same set of values”. Self-integrity is being what Socrates stated “to thine own self be true.”

We are all born with a pure essential nature, and self-integrity exists by being true to that nature - our authentic self. It is through awareness and knowledge of your authentic self - that self-integrity, which is the foundation of ethical behavior, is created. When you have that authentic awareness, you then can have self integrity as well as integrity with other people and situations. When our ego can be set aside, our lives can be truly open. How we live and what we say in private is no different from how we live in public. There is congruency.

With self integrity - our principles, our public behavior, our decisions are all in alignment and it is easy to make good ethical choices. It is difficult with self-knowledge and self-integrity, to behave contrary to that knowledge. If you truly have self-integrity, then it is not natural to live in ethical illusions or create ethical dilemmas. Behaving ethically to and with yourself translates into behaving ethically with other people.

As I write this – I must say – I wish I had gotten this concept much earlier in life. Reality is, I spent many months in Federal Prison because of my unethical choices. I had a great life. I was a college graduate with a Masters Degree in Accounting. I was a partner in a very successful CPA firm and I taught seminars within the accounting field. I had a wife, two beautiful sons and a large home in the suburbs. We attended church. I was even the choir director. I truly appeared to be successful in the community. People trusted me with their money and I was considered to have a lot of integrity.

However, all that was just an illusion – a manifestation of my ego. I did not know my authentic self and had no idea what that even meant. All I knew was that my ego had to “be somebody.” And, everything I showed to the public, I believed, defined me as a “somebody”. I felt I had to maintain that illusion in order to be accepted and highly thought of by community leaders. Unfortunately, I was living beyond my means and in order to maintain the illusion, I chose to embezzle money from my clients. There was a need – an opportunity – and I rationalized it. It was, frankly, easy. I had no intentions of doing harm to my clients, my partners or my family. I was, after all, a good person. I was only borrowing the money – so I thought.

As all illusions are prone to do, it broke apart when a client wanted to liquidate and “cash in” the money he invested. What he didn’t know was - the money was invested in my lifestyle. There is a consequence to every choice we make. It was now consequence time. Because I was unable to produce the money, I had to confess to my embezzlement. The illusory life was over. I lost everything: my job, my license as a CPA, my house, my family, respect and trust from the community. The consequences were swift and devastating.

Even though I paid restitution, I was convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion. Apparently, if you steal money, you still owe taxes on it! And to think I was a tax partner in a CPA firm, yet that never crossed my mind. Go figure. Going to prison was the worst day of life and yet, the absolute beginning of my new life.

Had I truly known about “to thine own self be true”, my life journey would have been completely different. I knew only what the ego wanted and the ego wanted to be perceived as being successful, wealthy, well-liked. Had I known my authentic self, then living a truly principled life would have been easy. Perhaps, I would still have all the external definitions of success as a bonus to living a principled life.

Do you live a private life congruent with your public life? Does your intrinsic self lead or does your ego lead? Are you aware of your authentic self? Many people are not and it is a process to find yourself and then find your self-integrity. There are many ways, other than going to prison, to do this. Today, as a Motivational Speaker, I share my story with others in hopes that it might spark an awareness of self-integrity. When you find your true self, you lay the foundation for positive ethical behavior.

For information on my presentation Choices: Negative Consequences – Positive Results - go to

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Does Prison Change You - Paris Vows Yes

Can a three week prison stay change a person? Hotel heiress Paris Hilton says yes. In her comments to people magazine Paris said, "I'm a good person. I'm a compassionate person. I have a big heart. I'm sincere, and they'll see." All comments made from a person who has received more media attention for her incarceration than Martha Stewart received from hers.

The media attention and scrutiny for most people would be unbearable. Paris, of course, is accustomed to the limelight. Yet, with the frenzy of attention she is receiving, we all know that the first slip up will capture the headlines. And, speaking from experience, Paris needs time to reflect beyond her incarceration time. She needs the opportunity to examine what is important and how she can make a difference.

Having served time in Federal prison for a crime more serious than drunk driving, I, too, had the time to experience the isolation and reflection that incarceration brings. Of course, like most, there was no media attention surround my time in jail - only close friends and family cared. But, looking back on the experience, now some eleven years ago, I can honestly say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a life changing experience - one that I will never repeat and one that I will never forget.

Often I'm asked, "So what was that experience like anyway?" Well, different than most would think. In my case, I was incarcerated in a Federal Minimum Security facility - what some call "Club Fed." Let me say at the outset, I was no "club" but certainly "Fed" all the way. Each inmate was required to work - other than for medical reasons - no exceptions. You do get paid (it's against the law to require work for no pay - that's called "slavery") - I earned 12 cents per hour. Fortunately at that meager earning level it was tax free!

Paris said of her stay that, "All of the inmates were very supportive." I found that to be true as well. Of course, using good God given common sense - there was those folks you just knew to stay away from. But, for the most part, most inmates felt the same as I - we knew we were being punished and had to make the best of it. It seems that after the release - re incarceration fiasco, Paris resigned herself to make the best of the situation at hand. In truth, situations like this can be extraordinary blessings in disguise.

In a quote featured on CNN, it's reported that Hilton said, "Don't serve the time; let the time serve you." That statement is profound. From personal experience I have seen both approaches to jail time. There are those who are doing time - who see no value to come from it - who just take a day at a time with no expectation gain. On the other hand, there were those who I was incarcerated with who used their time wisely. Many wrote - spent time planning for how they would benefit other once released and there were some of us who benefited other while incarcerated.

Very few people get the (odd) gift that incarceration can bring. As I look back to a time that was less than pleasant - I recall having lost everything. My marriage was in shambles. I had no home - no job - no car - no career and practically no possessions other than some clothes. Yet, being stripped of everything was just what I needed to focus on why I was there and what it meant to "be somebody." The time I had to self reflect proved to be some of the most valuable time of my life. It gave me a chance to learn who I was and what my gift to the world could be. Being in prison was one of the best things that ever happened to me. As Paris Hilton said about being incarcerated, it gave her "time to get to know myself." What a gift.

As a motivational speaker and sales executive in a publicly traded company, I often have the opportunity to share my experiences. Most people, especially in the business community, don't know someone who has been to prison - and recovered. Whether through a keynote speech, motivational workshop or ethics presentation, the message can be powerful to those willing to hear. Every choice we make has a consequence. Consequences are unavoidable. The reality, however, is that the consequence can be either positive or negative. Through our actions we choose. My bad choices yielded a negative consequence. Subsequent good choices have provided an outstandingly positive result.

Paris has a unique opportunity ahead of her. With focus and determination she can have a profound and positive effect on those who watch her closely. Perhaps we should all hold out hope that Paris can do on a much broader scale what I've had the fortune to accomplish - that is bring a message of hope that there is recovery and redemption to those who make the right choices.

For more information on presentations on Choices visit

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prostate Cancer and the Amazing Da Vinci System

Unlike normal blog postings dealing with Choices, Ethics, and Consequences - my topics as a professional motivational speaker - it seemed appropriate today to speak of my complete recovery from prostate cancer hoping that it might help others who are faced with decisions on prostate cancer treatment.

Discovering I had prostate cancer at the age of 47 was almost an accident and certainly not something that in any way I expected. I had no symptoms - none whatsoever. In layman's terms, everything seemed to work fine. So the discovery of prostate cancer was quite accidental. It seems I had gone to my doctor simply requesting a pill (propecia - a drug to reduce hair loss). She required I have a blood test, as this drug would have an effect on my PSA. Frankly, all that was greek to I didn't know what PSA was and had never had it checked. I hated needles - had always said I was allergic to them - hence I avoided being stuck as much as I could. But on this day in November 2004 I decided to take the plunge - have my blood checked - and get the prescription.

Two days later I got a call while out of town saying that all the lab work was fine except that my PSA was a bit elevated - it was 4.58 and for someone my age that was high. My doctor referred me to a Urologist. The appointment was set.

Of course I had some concern, but after all, all the plumbing seem to work fine and I had no symptoms, so surely there was no problem. The Urologist's exam was routine - in fact he said he thought I had nothing to worry about as he felt nothing abnormal. But, to be on the safe side he schedule a biopsy. Being fearful of needles (and a biopsy is the ultimate needle) I asked if it would hurt. His response, "Most men don't really feel a thing." That was a lie! Looking back, I would have asked for good drugs as that was the most painful experience I can recall.

Several days following the biopsy I received the results. Prostate Cancer! I had a Gleason score of 6 and 30% of one side of my prostate was cancerous. My heart sank as I received the news. How could I, a 47 year old healthy male, with no other medical issues have prostate cancer? And, how amazing that it was caught by a simple test that my well versed female doctor required. Looking back, her diligence saved my life.

What next?

My local doctor wanted to schedule surgery immediately. He said I had four options: (1) Radical prostotectemy (traditional surgery); (2) Radiation; (3) Hormone therapy and/or (4) Watch and wait. Again, he recommended surgery. My immediate question was how many of the surgeries that he was suggesting did he do weekly or monthly. The number was low. In the back of my mind I thought, "Hum, maybe I need someone who isn't so surgery happy and who does this delicate removal frequently." I was like learning to play golf - I would prefer to learn from someone who plays daily than learn from a weekend hacker. Maybe that analogy seems harsh, but after all the decision made would have lasting and profound effects.

Following the meeting with the Urologist, and after telling my family (who thought I was joking), I spent some time in research. First thing I found - based on my diagnosis - I had time to consider carefully my options. Not that nothing should be done, but I didn't have to rush into any hasty decisions. Prostate cancer generally is slow in it's progression. CAUTION - do not use my experience as a crutch to avoid treatment (I witnessed my father-in-law die from complications from prostate cancer), rather, seek competent medical help in making your treatment decisions.

Options Considered:

Watch and wait. Well for several months I did just that. I researched - changed my diet - considered the possibility that I could reverse what existed and even reduce the cancer. I began a regiment of daily intake of cottage cheese and flax seed oil. For a short time I actually saw a decrease in my PSA; however, that was short lived. What I did learn was that diet was important - not only for general well being - but an effective tool in promoting a cancer free body. This was valuable time in that it gave me the opportunity to consider all my options.

Radiation Therapy. Not really an option for me. While I talked with a man in his late 60's to early 70's who had outstanding results using focused radiation (proton therapy I think it was called), the reality is - once you opt for radiation and the tissue is destroyed, if prostate cancer returns, it cannot be surgically removed. Hence the best advice I received was, in my case, this would not be a practical option. By the way information on proton treatment can be found at or at The people I talked with who had used this treatment were extremely pleased with the level of care they received and the overall outcome.

High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU). In my search for the right treatment, I spent much time in considering this alternative. There were three practical objectives I wished to accomplish with whatever treatment I selected: (1) Cancer elimination, (2) Minimal issues with incontinence (preferably none) and (3) minimal issues with erectile function (again, preferably none). Based on my Gleason score and prostate cancer diagnosis, it seemed that this treatment would be viable. For research information visit As part of my consideration I met with Dr. George Suarez, Medical Director for USHifu. He reviewed my medical background and was kind in taking the time to discuss with me my options using this new prostate cancer treatment. Dr. Suarez took the time to explain all my options and how, if I elected, HIFU could be effective while meeting my three objectives. My only resistance was, at the time, it was not an option yet approved by the FDA in the United States, hence I would have to seek the treatment outside the scope of my medical insurance outside of the country. While I gave this serious consideration, I ultimately decided to go another route.

Radical Prostatectomy. All of the possibilities above, brought me back to the original suggestion - SURGERY. The issue I had was what kind and who would perform it. Since I had the time to research I discovered (through the wonder of the Internet) this, then, new procedure called a robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy. Hum...seemed that needed more study. Of course, at the time, Johns Hopkins Brady Urological Institute was recognized as one of the best in the world for prostate cancer research and study. After careful consideration I contacted Johns Hopkins inquiring about this seemingly new procedure - using the daVinci Surgical System.

The folks at Johns Hopkins could not have been more caring and helpful as I sought all my treatment options. Of course, they reviewed my file carefully and spent all the time I wanted and needed to evaluate my options. Dr. Li-Ming Su was my surgeon and my hat is off to him and his skill and patience. In the end, one thing was clear - all other options being equal - surgical removal was still the "gold standard" in the fight against prostate cancer. Likewise, it appeared that this robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy would meet my three objectives.

The surgery went fine - of course I don't remember a thing - so all I can base it on what the Doctor's report. Initially the report indicated that the cancer was contained in the prostate and the removal should yield me "cancer free." Of course this was to be confirmed later from lab reports. The first several days following surgery were not pleasant, but tolerable. Within three days, I boarded a plane and flew home to North Carolina - travel was not a big issue. The most discomforting thing following surgery was the catheter - which remained in for three weeks.

Outcome. Within four weeks following surgery I boarded a plane to Dallas, TX to begin a new job. My energy level was back and I had minimal incontinence isses with subsided within another three weeks. Within seven weeks of surgery incontinence was not an issue. Erecticle function returned within three months (with the aid of medication) and returned to full function (without medication) within twelve months.

Now it's been two years since surgery and all three objective have been achieved. Life is normal. I am cancer free. My sincere thanks to all who were there for me as I sought out the treatment that was right for me. I would not have the opportunity to function as a motivational speaker today if it were not for the skill and help of the fine folks at Johns Hopkins. While printing such personal items for all to read may seem (to some) out there! I feel that, perhaps, others who find themselves diagnosed with prostate cancer may learn from my experience. If you find this helpful, but still need to talk - please visit my web site: and contact me through that portal. I'll be happy to talk with you via e-mail or phone.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Law of Attraction - Ethics and Long Term Disability

Just on to day was an article on "The Secret," the book that has taken the world (literally) by storm outlining what has commonly become known as The Law of Attraction. While there is nothing new about this "Law" - it's been written about for decades - what is new is the presentation and the popularity in our culture.

So what's really at issue? Let's look an example. Not long ago I heard a lady expressing how "The Secret" had changed her perspective - how she was going to use the law of attraction to change her health and wealth. She was pumped and full of enthusiasm. Seems she had been ill for some time and felt that through using "The Secret," she could attract the funds she needed to seek some desperately needed medical help. On the surface everything seemed reasonable. You attract to you what you seek or what you hold in consciousness. Therefore ask and you will receive, a fundamental tenant of "The Secret" or "the Law of Attraction," should yield the results that you seek.

"Should" - but here's there's more to the story. Seems the person seeking funding for medical care is on long-term disability. There is no doubt that the individual is ill and needs medical attention. But as Paul Harvey would say - here's the rest of the story. The person in question contracted her illness 20+ years ago. That was not revealed to the company through whom she has long-term disability. In her words, "has they known when I got sick, it would have been considered a pre-existing condition and I would not have received my disability benefit. So I never talk about those early days." first thought was here was someone who knew that perhaps they wouldn't qualify for a benefit, but was willing to play the system for personal gain. Would they willing to be honest and accept the consequences? Again, let me make it clear - I don't doubt the illness - I'm concerned about the ethics of taking what may not be rightly theirs. But the story goes deeper.

While on long-term disability the individual in question found out that the insurance company had her under investigation. It seems that insurance companies are quick to investigate in order to avoid fraudulent claims or payouts. Do insurance companies use ethical tactics in order to find out the truth? Probably not - however, there have been many documented claims of disability when, in fact, it was not 100% true. Does this justify unethical investigational tactics? No, but one could see how that could apply when the rest of the story is revealed.

Let's take it a bit further. A person who has 100% disability prepares for a trip to a large city in anticipation of a major performance at a world renowned venue. Wait - this is confusing, I thought folks with disabilities - especially 100% were, well let's say, challenged with strenuous effort. I agree. But let's look at the facts - packing suit cases, traveling to the airport, boarding a plane, going to the hotel, practicing for hours (in anticipation of the performance), standing for hours (before and during the performance) and then attending a celebration meeting following. Doesn't sound like someone who is totally disabled.

But there's more. How did this go undetected by the insurance company? Good question. One suitcase was wrapped up like a gift so that it would not appear suspicious as it was taken out of the dwelling. And, upon return, the disabled individual exited (not at her dwelling), but a ways away - so that she could move behind the building - jump a fence - and sneak in the back door so that anyone watching would not know that she returned. And what about the suitcases. She had them taken to another location so that she could unpack them a little at a time - carrying the contents in grocery bags - again to fool any insurance investigator who might be looking.

"I don't want them to know I've been away. Otherwise, they would follow me and use the trip against me in their attempt to deny my claim," stated the individual. It appears that the insurance company would contend that she could do some work - and while that might be true - she sure didn't want to let them know that.

While I will say, yet again, that I don't doubt her illness - I am amazed at the lack of ethics and integrity involved in trying to dupe the insurance company - thereby, enabling the ability to gain financial benefit.

But what does this have to do with the "Law of Attraction?" There are many "laws" that we live under and through which govern our world as it operates daily. There's the "law of gravity." We can't deny that. Likewise, there is another law - some know it as "You reap what you sow," or the "law of cause and effect." Either way, as a motivation speaker, I find that I am called up to speak to groups about the application of this law - as I have lived through both the consequences and benefits of it's application. I speak first hand on Choices: Negative Consequences - Positive Results a keynote speech that outlines the power we have as individuals based on the choices we make. Further, the presentation, Make It Happen is a keynote presentation outlining the practical application of the "Law of Attraction."

What seems true is that the laws we speak of work only if they are congruent with other universal laws. For example, the "law of attraction" will not reward someone financially if they rob a bank, as that is in congruent with the "law of cause and effect," which will generate a negative consequence for the robbery - prison. Similarly, one will not be rewarded with positive results long term through lying.

We do reap what we sow and, generally, on a universal level we have in our lives what we attract to us. In this case (I may be proved wrong - but I don't think so), I doubt that the universe, through the "Law of Attraction" will provide the necessary funding for the medical care this person seeks - since such attraction would be in congruent with other universal laws. Dishonesty, unethical behavior, or lack of integrity, all combined will produce an outcome that is less than this persons best.

As a motivational speaker who speaks on the "Law of Attraction" as well as the "Law of Cause and Effect," I feel compelled to share with this individual the truth about the application of these laws. Yet, after seveal conversations - I'm quite convinced the message won't be heard. So often we get so caught up in our web of deceipt that we can't see the truth - even when it's in front of us. More importantly, we may not be willing to accept the consequences of changing our behavior - and at that point, the consequences - when they appear - will be more dramatic than we might ever anticipate. Insurance fraud is punishible by prison - which is not the outcome being sought.

For information on presentations made by Chuck Gallagher as a motivational speaker or keynote speaker - visit or feel free to contact Chuck at

As a keynote speaker and business executive, Chuck's message contains a blend of motivation, success, choices, consequences, illusions, failure, ethics, and integrity based on personal experience. In today's world, you want a motivational speaker that will impact your organization … a speaker they won't forget. Combine motivation and ethics with meaning and you have Chuck Gallagher.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ethically Speaking - Was Paris Hilton Treated Fairly

Over the past few weeks we have seen Paris Hilton’s drama being played out very publicly. Violating probation by driving on a suspended license by no means would be so public for most of us. Rather, it is her celebrity status that brought it to the forefront of the news.

Paris fought being incarcerated, then seemed to accept that reality. She turned herself in and entered jail peacefully. She was able to sustain incarceration for three days. During those three days she lived segregated in a 12’ by 8’ cell with a bed, a sink and a toilet. She was allowed outside for one hour a day and then some time watching TV. This a far cry from the mansions this celebrity was accustomed to living.

After three days, Paris was released from prison to house confinement because of a non-specified medical condition that incarceration worsened. Apparently it was the recommendation of her doctor for this to happen. The sheriff, based on medical information, released Paris to serve her time confined within the walls of one of her mansions.

As you can imagine, there was public outcry. “Paris Hilton gets special treatment because she is a celebrity!” There were demonstrations and angry letters sent to the judge. How dare she be given “special treatment”!!! Many were ready to hang her, hang the sheriff and hang the judge! The perception was that she was a celebrity and this “release” was unfair. After all would any of us in a similar situation get the same treatment?

Amidst Paris’ crying, her outcries, the judge sentenced her back to prison to complete her 45-day confinement. The judge refused to hear any testimony regarding the alleged medical condition of Paris, and none was submitted to the court. He appeared unsympathetic to her pleas and the pleas of her attorney. He was concerned that public trust in the court was violated by those actions. Paris was lead away crying and screaming. The paparazzi surrounded her and there was no privacy.

So, here is the $64,000 question just as Paris is facing release - was Paris treated fairly? Most people felt that she was getting special treatment because she was a wealthy celebrity. Others felt, because they were her fans, that they didn’t want her in prison because, after all, she was their idol – Paris Hilton. They felt she was being treated unfairly. There is a third view. If Paris Hilton had been Mary Smith, anonymous, would she have been released to do home incarceration? According to Sheriff Baca (the sheriff in Paris’ case), she would have. It is because of her celebrity status, that she is not having the same consideration as a “commoner”.

Let’s step aside from the emotions and take the role of an observer. An observer is not tied to any outcome. It is only the observation of the event. Paris Hilton was arrested on September 8 in California for allegedly driving while intoxicated. She was sentenced to 36 months of probation, alcohol education, and fines. Her license was suspended. Paris failed to enroll in an alcohol program and drove on a suspended license and was pulled over two times and lied each time.

There is much publicity about driving while intoxicated. We all hear the horror stories and see the results. We all know the possible legal consequences of driving while intoxicated. Paris Hilton made a choice to drive while intoxicated back in September. She knew the consequences could land her in jail. Ignorance can not be used as a defense!!! She then chose to drive on a suspended license and she chose to not enroll in a court ordered alcohol educational program. She, then, effectively chose the consequence of incarceration. Every choice we make has a consequence and surely Paris knew that this outcome was a possibility. This may not feel good, but it appears fair. It sounds as if most of us could expect the same should be follow in her footsteps.

In life, we all face choices every day. Those choices range from simple ones such as what clothes to wear that day to complicated ones such as choices in the direction their corporation is going. With every choice, there is a consequence. Unethical choices lead to negative consequences. Paris made an unethical choice and she received her negative consequence. She compounded her initial unethical choice by choosing to violate the negative consequences. Thus, she received a more stringent negative consequence. Had she chosen to respect the consequences of her initial behavior, this drama she is enduring would be non-existent and she would be experiencing positive results. It appears that Paris Hilton created her outcome. Had she followed the law to begin with, all this “suffering” would be a non-issue.

Having said that, I also believe there is the concept of mercy. If she indeed has a medical condition that jail worsens, then perhaps an alternative incarceration is called for such as would be true for a mere commoner such as myself. If it is a psychiatric condition, send her to a psychiatric hospital. From what I understand, it is no picnic there either. However, having to do incarceration in a mansion is hardly punishment.

Having been to Federal Prison, I understand the despair at being locked up in a cell. Those first few days are the worse. It is the initial separation from family, it is the final ripping away of the illusions of success. You are only left with who you are and if you don’t know who you are, then it is very frightening. I can truly identify with the sense of isolation and despondency Paris has gone through. I was not a celebrity, but I had been a very successful partner in a CPA firm. I had all the illusions of success. I had made it, I thought. However, I made an unethical choice of stealing money from my clients which lead to my negative consequences. I did it all by myself. I didn’t intend to be incarcerated. I didn’t intend to harm my family, but I did both. Yes, those first few days were the worst as I finally faced the reality of myself.

Prison was an experience I would never want to repeat. However, I grew as a person and as a man as a result of that experience. I would not be where I am today without the experience, unfortunately. If Paris chooses, she could learn about her self, her values, and choices. She may come out on the other side knowing more about herself and what is truly important and what is not. Moreover, she may use the experience to help others understand clearly the effects that choices have. Perhaps, Paris will use her fame and some fortune to campaign against what got her to prison in the first place – campaign against drinking and driving

As a motivational speaker, I share my experience before, during and after prison – using it as an example for others. We are all faced with making choices and all choices have consequences. The reality is we generally have control over the outcome by the choices we make. Let’s hope as the days unfold that Paris will use this experience to benefit others. For information on the presentation Choices: Negative Consequences – Positive Results visit

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ethics and Ambition: The Consequences of an Ambitious Duke Prosecutor

How often have I said in presentations around the country, "Every choice has a consequence! It is an inescapable truth...just like gravity." Yet, it seems like daily we are bombarded with media rich coverage about bad choices and the consequences that follow. The Duke lacrosse fiasco and Mike Nifong's prosecution is but another example. The question now is not what happened - that has been well documented, but how could someone expect to make so many wrong and unethical decisions and expect to get by or go undetected?

Nifong resigned, has been disbarred, and now is facing criminal the possibility of criminal contempt of court. Attorneys for the Duke lacrosse players wrote that Nifong's misconduct "shocks the conscience and defies any notion of accident or negligence." The consequence of a conviction of criminal contempt of court could land Nifong in prison.

Let me first say, as an Ethics Keynote Speaker, I have no personal connection with this case or any of the parties therein. Therefore, the comments made here are not in judgement of the people or of their alleged crimes - that's for the judicial system to handle. Rather, there seems to be a common thread that runs through issues like this and having been there myself, I understand clearly how choices can be made that can have disastrous consequences. Perhaps if they are exposed - others may consider more carefully their choices before reaping the consequences that follow.

It has been said that Nifong's judgement might have been blurred by political ambition. I suppose it could be argued that Nifong's political career could be catapulted forward with a high profile conviction in this case. Suppose that the Duke lacrosse students had, in fact, raped an African American stripper - imagine the headlines following a conviction. Nifong would have brought to justice those wealthy Caucasian boys who, assuming they were above the law with their wealth and privilege, harmed in a violent way those who were underprivileged and disenfranchised. Headlines like that would get one votes. And votes gets one power in the political machine.

The problem is - it wasn't true. Certainly the Duke lacrosse students may be judged guilty of poor judgement. But, college students often do dumb things. Judgement aside, they did not break the law. And no matter what was said, in this case the truth was exposed. Choices and consequences.

There is a pattern to unethical behavior and Nifong seems to fit it perfectly.

NEED. Nifong seemed to have a need - political ambition. For the record let me state, I don't know for sure the need - what I do know is that one does not generally participate in unethical behavior unless they have a need first - otherwise, there would be no reason to make the choice.

OPPORTUNITY. The second component of the triangle is an opportunity to meet or advance the need. Before the Duke lacrosse case landed on Nifong's desk - I would almost bet that this well respected Durham, NC District Attorney had no intention of doing anything that would get him disbarred. In fact, likely he would have been a champion of ethics fighting those who exhibited unethical behavior. Yet, if the speculation is true - political ambition was a strong need - then the Duke case could be just the case that would propel this ambitious District Attorney to the next level. What can be more powerful in the political arena than fighting for the rights of the weak and downtrodden.

RATIONALIZATION. The third component that made this case such a "perfect storm" was Nifong's apparent ability to rationalize his behavior. The reported facts seem to support that there was no real opportunity here. Reality seemed to be that the "weak and downtrodden" stripper was seeking an opportunity to make some money off of a bad situation. Nifong didn't have a case and, from his comments at his ethics trial, he knew that. Yet, somehow his need and this apparent "golden opportunity" triggered an internal ability for Nifong to rationalize his behavior.

This third component sealed his unethical choice and set the wheels in motion for the consequences that followed. Had he stopped early on with the prosecution the consequences would have been less severe - in fact, his career likely would have been saved. But, like many who make unethical judgements - I know as I have been there - we often continue to make them rationalizing that eventually they will have the desired outcome or at worst they will go undetected. That is fantasy.

All choices have consequences - either positive or negative. That my friends is an inescapable truth. I am sympathetic to Mr. Nifong as I have experienced much of what he is going through. The pain is very real and the consequences he will face have just begun. The effects or consequences of our choices can be seared into our beings for the rest of our lives.

Yet, there can be recovery. If every choice you make has a consequence - either positive or negative - then we can choose to make choices that will yield positive results. As a Motivational Speaker, I often speak to groups about Choices: Negative Consequences - Positive Results. For information on presentations that can help your employees, association members or students understand the ramifications of the choices they make and focus on choices that will bring true success contact me at or visit