Seven Deadly Sins: How to avoid business hell

By Steven McCarty

Back in the Middle Ages, life was simple. There was right and wrong. Some of the Ten Commandments revealed the right; the others, plus the Seven Deadly Sins, conveyed the wrong. Many even believed that if you made good choices, you went to heaven; bad ones landed you in Dante’s "Inferno."

Today, life is ... well, confusing. For many people, commandments and sin are quaint concepts. Instead, they pursue secular goals such as paycheck size and social network reach. But, alas, they are lost in moral darkness.

So here’s my solution. Let’s update the Seven Deadly Sins for financial advisors. Save yourself by avoiding these transgressions and examples at all costs:

Pride: the desire to be more important or attractive than your clients. If you must raise your office chair two feet above your clients, watch out!

Avarice: the aggressive pursuit of wealth, stature, and power. Don’t succumb to the temptation to trade in your Jag every year.

Envy: being resentful of the good fortune of others. Don’t “unfriend” clients who snare the latest Internet IPO before you do.

Wrath: uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Avoid hacking into the computers of companies who mess up your commission checks.

Lust: inappropriate thoughts or desires. Never expose personal spreadsheets to comely number crunchers via Facebook or LinkedIn.

Gluttony: overindulgence in anything to the point of waste. Don’t propose more risk to clients than you can personally stomach at Sunday dinner.

Sloth: failure to use one’s talents and gifts through laziness and indifference. Never spend more time watching the Cartoon Network on cable TV than you do with your best client.

So, why the lighthearted approach to something as serious as sin? Because humor unveils deep truths. And the truth of the matter is this: Being an ethical businessperson means embracing the right behaviors and avoiding the wrong ones. Moral relativism has no place in business.

Following the right path often involves saying no to ourselves and to those who tempt us. Self-discipline is the only path to integrity.

Achieving success isn’t about amassing wealth. It’s about helping others — and the blessings will follow.