We have been asking the question about what contributes to lasting success in one’s career and life? This has become a pressing question in our increasingly complex and integrated world. In our last post we looked at how Henry Cloud in his book entitled ‘Integrity’ helpfully boils it down to the 3 main areas of technical ability, people skills and character.


Cloud defines integrity as much more than being ethical and honest. Important and foundational as they are, they are not sufficient to bring lasting success. Certainly you want to be a person who says what they do and does what they say. You don’t want to be a person who lies, steals or cheats. But that in of itself insufficient. Cloud encapsulates integrity as the courage to meet the demands of reality.

When we define integrity in those terms then it brings the challenge of character and true success to a whole new level. If I am going to bring about lasting success to my life and career then there is no room for complacency or feeling that I have nothing further to learn. In our increasingly complex and rapidly changing world we need an attitude of on-going openness to learning and new ideas.

Cloud gives us 6 aspects of character to focus on:


1. The ability to connect authentically.
When I am able to affirm the feelings  and emotions of others in such a way that they know I understand them this enables me to build trust. To put it even more succinctly, the other person understands you understand them. That sounds easy, but in practice it is so easy to overlook. It is so easy to be focussed on my needs or my agenda when interacting with others. When I do that it is so easy to see people as a means to reach my goals or fulfil my agenda rather than uniquely valuable individuals each with great potential.

2. The ability to be orientated towards the truth.
Many times I have seen, and been guilty of it myself, that when things don’t go the way I want, to blame others or find myself looking to criticise the deficiencies of others. When I do that then I am avoiding taking responsibility to look for the truth of the role that I have played to contribute to the unsatisfactory situation. However, when I am serious about seeing the world as it is, not as I would wish it to be, then I am able to function in reality. The first task of leadership is to define reality and not hide behind how I wish or hope things would be.

3. The ability to work in a way that gets results and finishes well.
In the business world that means being able to reach goals, profits or the mission of the organisation. Companies that can’t do this go bankrupt. In the non-profit world it leads to irrelevance and slow, prolonged death of the organisation.

4. The ability to embrace, engage and deal with the negative.
This is the only way to end problems, resolves issues or transform challenges in a positive way – but it is far from easy. Jim Stockdale who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and was tortured and imprisoned for 8 years explains how he survived such a terrible experience:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
What that means is in effect seeing the truth not as an enemy to  be avoided, but a friend who can be trusted. Cloud’s marriage counsellor puts it powerfully like this:
“I don’t care what the truth is, just give it to me. I have to know what is real. Then I can know what to do.”

5. The ability to be orientated towards growth.
All healthy organisms grow and increase. Here is how Cloud puts it:
“In life, some people are good problem solvers, but they are not growers…For to meet the total demands of reality, we must be growing and always increasing our abilities, skills and capacities in every area of life. If a toddler just maintained a 2-year-old level of development and never increased those capacities, she would miss out on a lot of life.. To find all of that life, she has to have a ‘drive to grow’. There has to be a force inside that literally drives her to want and find ‘more’.”
A challenging question to ask oneself is does my presence enhance or diminish the motivation and energy of others? I cannot enhance the motivation or energy of others unless I am intentional about it.

6. The ability to be transcendent.
There is something about the simplicity of babies and even toddlers that is enchanting and captivating. I remember a time when one of my daughters at about the age of 3 was going out with her mother. As she left, she seriously commanded me, ‘Take good care of my toys!’ In her young mind my sole purpose for existing was to take care of her toys! She had a very self-centred view of life. That was cute and even natural at age 3. However, unchecked self-centredness if it is allowed to grow can become extremely ugly. It is marked by traits such as grandiosity, omnipotence, extreme selfishness, exploitveness, an over-estimation of one’s talents or importance, feelings of entitlement and egocentricity.
Cloud helpfully describes the opposite of this self-centredness as the quality of transcendence. Let me end with the following from Cloud’s book:

“It is about the person who has gotten beyond, above, or transcended ordinary human selfishness and self-centredness and lives in a very different reality from thinking life revolves around him or her. She realises that there are things much bigger than her, and that her existence is really not just about her and her interests, but ultimately about the things larger than she is. Her life is about fitting into those things, joining them, serving them, obeying them, and finding her role in the big picture. Then as a result, she ultimately becomes a part of them and finds meaning much larger than a life that is just about her. Life is about things that transcend her.”

That large quote is certainly worth pondering over! (Also see post on Spiritual Maturity).

So how do these ingredients to lasting success from Henry Cloud speak to you?

What questions or comments do they raise? It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below.