My 2014 Integrity Report

Today I am publishing my first Integrity Report, which will explain the steps I’m taking to set a higher standard, lead with honesty, and build a business that serves first.

My hope is that my Integrity Report will become a yearly ritual that forces me to think about how I am living out my values in real life and pushes me to serve you in a better way.

There are 3 questions that I’m going to answer in my Integrity Report (feel free to use these for your own integrity report if you want).

  1. What are the core values that drive my life?
  2. How am I living and working with integrity right now?
  3. How can I set a higher standard and lead with more integrity in the future?

Here we go…

1. What are the core values that drive my life?

Here are my core values and some questions that I use to think more deeply about each area.

Growth (Learning, Adventure, and Taking Action)

  • Am I learning and improving? Am I seeking adventure and exploration?
  • Am I setting a higher standard in my work and my life?
  • Am I taking action on the things that are important to me?

Self-Respect (Authenticity, Balance, Happiness)

  • Am I living a balanced life?
  • Am I living authentically?
  • Am I giving myself permission to be happy with who I am right now?

Servant Leadership (Community, Happiness, Responsibility)

  • Am I bringing people together?
  • Am I making the world a happier place?
  • Am I empowering others to be leaders and tell their own story?

Resiliency (Grit, Toughness, Perseverance)

  • Am I mentally and physically strong?
  • Am I someone who perseveres through difficulty and challenge?
  • Am I someone others can count on? Am I reliable and dependable?

2. How am I living and working with integrity now?

Here are some choices and changes I made over the past year to lead with more integrity.

Choosing service over profit. I believe that your impact can only be as great as your willingness to serve. From the very beginning, I have said that my work on JamesClear.com is focused on the mission first, and the business second. I do have workshops for sale (here) and I am working on my first book, but I have committed to avoiding decisions that are based purely on monetary motivation.

I think I have done a good job of this so far. Since November 2012, I have written 137 articles, answered more than 10,000 emails from readers, and responded to thousands of messages on Facebook and Twitter — all for free as a form of service.

Setting clear expectations and being dependable. Integrity is closely related to trust and it’s hard to trust someone if you never know what you’re going to get. I work very hard to set clear expectations and deliver on those expectations over and over again. For example, from the moment someone joins my free newsletter, I explain that they will receive new articles from me every Monday and Thursday (i.e. setting expectations). So far, I’ve only missed that schedule once in 16 months (i.e. reliability).

Putting the needs of the reader first. I believe that good website design is a form of service. For that reason, I have spent hundreds of hours tweaking my website to make things easier for the reader. Everything from the size of the font to the words used in the navigation to the spacing between paragraphs has been chosen to make the reading and browsing experience easier. Plus, I have eliminated all forms of distraction, advertising, and in-your-face marketing from my website (more details here).

Creating a bulletproof finance and tax strategy. I recently interviewed and hired a new accountant. He has more than 10 years of experience working with technology entrepreneurs and his team can provide additional services as my business continues to grow. This was an important shift for me because I know nothing about tax code and thus have a constant fear about filing taxes incorrectly. With this new team, I can be sure that the financial end of my business is operating with constant integrity.

3. How can I set a higher standard in the future?

Using more inclusive language in my articles. Many of the examples I use in my articles are men (Richard Branson, Jack LaLanne, Dave Brailsford, Dr. Seuss). I have made a small effort to share stories about inspiring women (J.K. Rowling and my friend Beck Tench), but I could do a much better job of using language that is inclusive and welcoming for every reader. As a general rule, I think female examples are underrepresented and I’d like to be one person who sets a higher standard for equality.

Empowering others to be leaders and tell their own story. When it comes to providing resources and ideas that help others succeed, my weekly articles are a solid start. But I believe this is a big area of improvement for me. There are many options, but here are two examples: 1) creating a full course that teaches everything I’ve learned about building a popular website so that others can use these strategies to share their message with the world, 2) hosting a week-long retreat where 50 future leaders could connect and learn strategies for turning their vision into a reality.

More rigorous standards for scientific research. As regular readers know, I often base my articles and ideas off of scientific research rather than random opinions. That said, not all research studies are of equal quality and many writers will often cite a study simply because it was published — even if it wasn’t conducted using quality research methods.

Reviewing many studies to verify their accuracy is a time intensive process, so I’m still wrestling with how to deal with this issue. For now, I have reached out to multiple organizations and researchers, which have provided me with their own decision trees and processes that they use to assess the strength of a particular study. I have also committed to covering issues that have been backed by a large body of scientific research rather than just one or two studies. My hope is that I can do the hard work for you and verify the accuracy of any scientific study that I quote or mention in my articles. If you have any additional ideas on how to check the quality of scientific research, please let me know.

Hiring a coach, editor, or mentor. It’s hard to coach yourself. Up until this point, I have done all of the research, writing, editing, and publishing of every article on this site. Because I see JamesClear.com as the home of my life’s work, I think it’s important that I do all of the writing. But I also know that elite writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Atul Gawande have a team of researchers, editors, and fact checkers making their work better. And that’s the standard of quality that I want to pursue. I have my eyes set on the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. These are places that have set the standard for quality writing and, although I’m not there yet, that’s the playing field I want to be on.

The Bottom Line

In my experience, catastrophic lapses of integrity are rare. The problems usually occur when we convince ourselves to make a series of small exceptions or “just this once” choices. After a while, the little exceptions add up and you find yourself in a place you would normally avoid.

The purpose of this report is to hold myself accountable to those small errors, avoid the tiny lapses in judgment, and force myself to raise the bar and lead through action.

I still have a long way to go, but if I can maintain the things that are going well and commit to one or two areas of improvement, then I should be able to deliver an even higher quality of work to you each week.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and being part of our worldwide family. It’s great to have you here.