Rebecca Hagelin

Professional athletes taking steroids. Corporate bigwigs cooking the books. College students cheating on exams. Parents going ballistic at kids’ sporting events. Politicians resorting to dirty tricks. What do they all have in common?

All flow from a scorched-earth, win-at-any-cost mentality. And all leave behind a trail of wreckage -- ruined lives, damaged reputations and widespread mistrust -- not to mention a lot of anger, betrayal and cynicism.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. Playing hard, and playing to win, is a laudable strategy. Indeed, judging from the track record of human achievement, it’s the only strategy with any hope of success. It’s when we add “at any cost” to the equation that trouble starts.

All well and good, you may say, but how can compete honestly in my business -- and my life -- and succeed in a world filled with cheating, chicanery and cheap shots?

Immerse yourself in the lessons contained in a powerful new book titled “The Science of Success,” and you can’t go wrong. “The Science of Success” is a blueprint for how to engage in ethical business practices that will benefit your business and society.

It comes directly from a man who should know: Charles G. Koch (pronounced “Coke”) is the CEO of Koch Industries, Inc. The book is subtitled, “How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company” -- and has it ever. Koch Industries, a leading producer of gasoline, chemicals, polymers, packaging and tissue, posted annual revenues of $90 billion in 2006, up from $70 million in 1960.

And much of that growth, Koch notes, occurred after the company had become a large organization with about 80,000 employees. That’s unusual. Most large corporations become stagnant after the initial rush of growth has taken place. By learning to embrace the change inherent in a free market (what economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction”), Koch Industries has charted a path to success worthy of imitation.

I can’t reproduce every nugget of wisdom I encountered in this inspiring book -- and frankly, even if I could, I wouldn’t want to spoil your enjoyment of it -- so let me highlight a portion of it that particularly impressed me. It’s in Chapter 4, “Virtue and Talents,” and it concerns the need for both. After all, the most talented individual in the world, absent virtue, can rob people left and right. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, virtue is at least as important as talent. Koch notes the lesson an aspiring company should draw from this:

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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