I was listening to an interview on business best practices and the interviewer asked, “What is the best way to tell if someone has high integrity?” That got my attention. Begin honest and trustworthy – and surrounding myself with people who have similar thoughts on the importance of both – has always been extremely important to me.

The interviewer added that, to him, integrity was best determined by how people act in challenging or stressful times. He referenced the financial melt down of 2008. It’s easy to claim integrity when your bank account is full and your job secure. Differences abound when you’re broke, about to be fired or aren’t sure if you’ll have a roof over your head tonight – when the chips are down, as the saying goes.

This got me thinking about when things were not going well for me. Was I able to stay honest and do the right thing? Would my children have been proud of my actions? Being fully ensconced in the upper middle class and in first-world privilege, I don’t have a laundry list of what I would call truly challenging or stressful times. In fact, I feel guilty about some of the things that I’ve embraced as stressful, like wondering if I would be accepted in graduate school, an oversold flight, having to have my hip replaced at 50 or if I would I be approved for the loan to expand my businesses.

There was a time early in my business career that I thought I was going to run out of money. We were in the ‘Death Valley’ of business where in order to grow, investment is needed and in order to get money you had to show growth. I remember waking up night after night thinking about the possible outcomes. I had trouble focusing for more than 10 minutes, my thoughts constantly moving between I am a failure and You can do this, girl. I was ashamed and kept this information from pretty much everyone. Normally I’m an open book. Looking back on that situation, though, I realize that stress doesn’t make me less likely to tell the truth but it can, if I don’t stay aware, result in me not asking for help, advice or guidance which I crave when times are good. Stress also impacts my sleep which makes me less competent and more prone to eat poorly.

I was then, and am now, surrounded by people and information that will help me solve all sorts of problems – but stress somehow creates a barrier for me to resources that are all around. Pretty interesting to ponder, IMO. Integrity – being the best in good times and bad. What a great life’s work to embrace.

– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO