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Ever since the dawn of humanity - by M.X.

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What is the most important value that will help motivate you to achieve your goals?

'A' Level student-inmate from institution TM1

Consolation Prize

Ever since the dawn of humanity, tens of thousands of years ago when we began evolving from our primate ancestors, it has been clear to see that the human race has always been destined for greater things. While other lifeforms have indeed evolved and achieved greater survivability on our planet, no other species that walks the faith has made any significant progress comparable to the astronomical leaps forward that we have made. From the amazing discovery of fire during the stone age to the rise of industrialization and then globalization along with scientific and technological advancements, the world we live in now could be unfathomable to our forefathers of the stone age. We have achieved the most peaceful times in the history of mankind, the near eradication of plagues as well as the lowest level of poverty and the highest standards of living since time immemorial.

All this can be attributed greatly to the rise of the capitalist system that our global economy was founded upon. Capitalism has pushed us to great heights and brought on incentives for those people with the ability to create a better world for us. This incentive is now more commonly known as money. Without the incentive of money, most of the pioneers of our generation would not have bothered with such goals as coming up with ideas and technology to make our lives easier. Money is a great motivator. However, it might also be the cause of the bad apple called greed that causes the downfall of humanity. This is why as humans, if we want to preserve the idyllic quality of life as we now know and have come to be used to, we must always have values as the cornerstones of our upbringing. Personally, in our increasingly materialistic world I feel the most important value that will continue helping motivate us to achieve our goals is integrity.

In the past few decades, many prominent human beings have been continuously reaching unforeseen levels of wealth. However, if we do not have integrity as a core belief that we hold in our hearts, it is then that the popular saying “whatever goes up, must come down” rings true. Take the popular Wall Street investor Bernard “Bernie” Madoff as a case in point. Madoff acts as one of the most popular hedge fund managers and venture capitalists of his time, attracting investors from all over the world including major world leaders to entrust hordes of their money into his care. He boasted some of the highest returns on investment thanks to his genius in developing breakthrough investment techniques and methods that provided generous returns while having minimal risks. His investment methods were so sophisticated and ahead of his time that at his peak he was managing asset values in the tens of billions of dollars/ and then comes the diabolical twist in the story, where everything comes crashing down.

When a financial analyst started being skeptical about Madoff’s unbeatable returns on investment and low risk, he started digging deeper into the methods of investing he used. Still not satisfied with what he found, it resulted in a full scale investigation being launched which eventually exposed Madoff as the mastermind of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. A ponzi scheme is a type of investment scam that pays investors returns using money from other investors, attracting new investors to pump cash into the scheme that keeps the cycle going. Madoff was at the center of the global financial system, fooling thousands of people while remaining in the global spotlight. When he was finally caught, millions of people around the world lost faith in the economy as well as the financial system.

If a man that reached such awe-inspiring levels of success and was in the public eye for years could turn out to be a fraud, how could anyone possibly be able to trust anything around them? This is a way integrity has to be an essential keystone of our lives in the pursuit of our goals, or else who knows how many more Madoffs we will have to deal with, and that might ruin most people's faith in humanity. It also serves as an important reminder that without integrity, no matter how high someone may soar, he will always come crashing down as Madoff did.

It must be said that not everyone that has achieved success is blind to integrity. Many of the successful people and traders of industry have clawed their way up with their bare hands while still keeping their integrity intact throughout the entire journey. Some of them have even ended up as philanthropists, giving beyond the scope of integrity by working their way up with honesty, hard work and then giving back more than their fair share to society. Take William “Bill” Gates, the founder of Microsoft for example. He was a university student that dropped out in order to follow his dream of changing the world. He was a Computer Science student that eventually managed to use his expertise to do just that, changing the world by popularizing and revolutionizing the personal computer, all without even completing his degree. He did it all without a bad bone in his body, doing it honestly and even became the wealthiest man on the planet in the process. All this success did not get to his head, and so after achieving his goal of changing the world, he decided to do it again but in another way. He set up the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and has contributed tens of billions of dollars back to society, truly changing the world again but this time, mostly by helping underprivileged children. This goes to show that humanity will surely go a long way if everyone believes in integrity in the pursuit of their goals Bill Gates does.

It should not be said that someone who has his integrity compromised cannot turn his life around. In our local society, Singapore, an ex-convict and drug abuser that used to engage in all kinds of illicit activity managed to turn his life around after his last release from prison. As everyone knows, an ex-convict that claims to have turned over a new leaf will surely be put to the test eventually. This ex-convict, Tan Hong Rui, was working as a mover after his release. While on a job helping one of his clients pack up their belongings to move to their new house, he discovered $80 000 in cash in one of the cabinets. This was a true test of his integrity. Rather than claiming ignorance and pocketing the cash, he returned it to its rightful owners. This was an amazing feat of honesty and integrity, especially coming from an ex-convict, and so the owners of the house reported his good deed to the media and The New Paper interviewed Mr Tan and commended his actions in a published article and video online. That even an ex-convict can display such a heart-warming feat of integrity should serve to remind all of us to do our part and maintain our integrity, and that humanity is not too far off the tracks yet.

All these real life examples simply goes to show that integrity must be one of the core values we embrace when going about our lives. Whenever we can, we must remind our children, parents, siblings and friends what can be gained, and also what is at stake when it comes to our steadfastness in integrity when in pursuit of our goals. It is what makes us special as human beings, and without it we may well go too far off the right path.

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