running-manHere’s a bit of free advice. Don’t worry about what others are doing—run your race! You are uniquely qualified to run your race. No one else has those qualifications.

So, as you begin writing the story of your journey towards an ethically intelligent life, I would like for you to consider the following counsel from my newest book. Here’s an excerpt from that book:

“Thank you Mary for that wonderful rendition of Amazing Grace. We continue with our memorial service, and I now invite Dr. Jim Williams to the podium.”

“Thank you, Frank. As all of us who knew him well recall, Dr. John taught us to begin at the end. As he always led by example, I’m going to read for you the epitaph that Dr. John wrote for himself some 36 years ago.”

John Opincar, business practitioner, entrepreneur, educator and the “father” of ethical intelligence left this life doing what he loved—teaching. Beginning with his first book, Ethical Intelligence: The Foundation of Leadership, published in 2009, Dr. Opincar wrote over two dozen books and scores of articles as a relentless champion of ethical conduct and team-based corporate governance. His Ethical Intelligence Mosaic is now the accepted standard measure of an individual’s ethical intelligence, and an ethical portrait is a fixed credential of every leader.

During his seven-decade professional career, Dr. Opincar was a certified public accountant, consultant, CFO, CEO, and, most importantly, a teacher. He taught and mentored thousands of students who now hold leadership positions in all areas of society. Dr. Opincar is a devout follower of Jesus Christ, and he believed we are all endowed at birth with a treasury of talents, dreams, and a life purpose. Determined to exhaust his treasury, Dr. Opincar used every talent, followed every dream, and achieved his purpose in this life. And, praise God, he left empty!

Begin at the End

I wrote that version of my epitaph more than 11 years ago in early 2005. I’ve presented it exactly as I wrote it. As you can see, I am a bit behind on my original anticipated schedule for publishing this book. But, I am still on course. The dates aren’t important. It’s the outcomes that should hold our attention. As you begin your journey toward awakening ethical intelligence, I urge you to begin at the end. Knowing where we’re going helps us get there.

I suggest that you write your own epitaph. Doing so transforms the ephemeral into the tangible. It will help you deal with the conflicts that will surely arise, and find resolutions more efficiently. As you can see from my example, your epitaph is a grand statement about your life, with a few detailed milestones. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be meaningful to you. It should be a clear expression of intentions transformable into action. Your actions make it real. For the planners among us, at this stage, don’t worry about a formal plan. We’ll get to that in just a moment.

As you write your epitaph, I want you to “put yourself out there.” Be willing to do something you’ve never done. Maybe it’s writing your own book or maybe it’s simply asking for help from a leadership consultant. You don’t really know what’s inside until you place a demand on yourself. Include the dreams you really want to fulfill not just those you think you can fulfill. If you never tire, your dreams are too small. Unleashing your ethical intelligence empowers you to achieve goals you now think are impossible and to conquer conflicts that currently appear insurmountable. As you take this journey, you’ll discover talents and capabilities you never knew you had. But—it is a journey.”

Begin your journey today. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Let me help you!