Selfish Integrity

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About a month ago I sat down at a poker game in the Bellagio. A player two seats to my left stands up and says, “Excuse me everyone- I need to make an announcement. The most honest player in poker has just sat down at the table. That is all.”

I wasn’t sure if he was talking about me or not. If anything, I figured that he was being sarcastic because I play somewhat deceptively.

“You know what I’m talking about, right?” He asked me.

“No, not really.”

“The other day, when you found that guy’s chip.”

Oh yeah. A couple days prior I was sitting at the same table, and while paying the drink lady for my green tea, I dropped one of my blue $1 chips onto the floor. I scooched my chair back and bent over to look on the floor and was surprised to find not only my $1 chip, but a yellow chip  worth a thousand dollars.

I picked up the chip. No person or cameras saw it. If I wanted to, I could easily pocket it. Instead I held it up and asked if anyone at the table lost $1000. The guy to my right said that it was his and I handed to him. 

It didn’t really even cross my mind to take the chip. It’s not because I’m a nice person– after all I specifically sat to this guy’s left because he was a bad poker player, and I wanted to win as much as possible from him (the left of someone is generally the best place to exploit their weaknesses from). It’s because I don’t want to have to deal with the consequences.

What are the consequences of taking $1000 from someone who would probably never notice that it’s missing? There’s one and it’s a big one: I’d have to be the kind of person that would do that.

I live in my mind. Right now it’s a nice place to be. But if I steal $1000, then I’m living in the mind of someone who doesn’t follow his own ethics. I have to live with the incongruity of believing that taking money is wrong, but doing it anyway. I also invite myself to ponder other grey areas; after all, if I’ve taken money that wasn’t mine once, why wouldn’t I do it again?

I read a book recently called “Sins of South Beach” by Alex Daoud, the former mayor of South Beach. It’s a shockingly honest story (which is only really possible because he ratted on everyone) of his transformation from idealistic crusader to corrupt politician. One of the things that struck me most was his inner dialog during the part where he was corrupt. You could tell that although he was accumulating power and money, he was becoming less and less happy. It didn’t surprise me– I can’t imagine being a happy person living with that sort of baggage in my mind.

I have a strong set of ethics that has very little grey area, and I follow them scrupulously. I’m not trying to be arrogant, but I really do think that one of my strongest qualities is that I have a lot of integrity. This is good for people around me, and I’m happy about that, but I think that I get the most benefit from it. After all, I’m the one who gets to live in a mind that has almost no internal conflict or hypocrisy or temptation.

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Sorry if this still isn’t formatted correctly. We’re working on it.

Photo is of my friend Toby, who’s a friend with lots of integrity (like all of my good friends…)

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