Where Will Your Integrity Take You Today?

I found myself standing in the gas chamber at Auschwitz contemplating how I arrived there. My father’s family is Sicilian – 100%. Picture a 13-year-old boy holding his uncle’s hand, gazing at the Statue of Liberty from the deck of a passenger liner in the early 1900s and that’s Papa Milazzo, my grandfather. My family name, Milazzo, comes from a village in Sicily. My grandparents knew each other as children before leaving Sicily and lucky, against all odds, managed to find each other and marry in the U.S.

My mother was 100% Louisiana. She grew up in Tickfaw and met my dad in New Orleans. Dad had just returned from fighting the Japanese at places like Angaur and Peleliu in the Pacific during World War II – fattened up by the Army to a wholesome 125 pounds. She immediately married him and soon here I was (along with my twin brother and older sister).

Tom’s family has a completely different background. His father’s parents are Polish, both coming from the Krakow area – about an hour north of Oscwiezm, the Polish name for Auschwitz. Tom and I both have vivid memories of our grandparents speaking in Polish or Italian when they didn’t want the grandkids to understand them. Tom’s mother’s side is a little more complicated – and the reason we were here. Tom’s maternal grandfather was Scottish (right down to the tartan). His grandmother was middle-European Jewish. In the 1930s when this zaftig woman married the Scotsman, out of her faith and against her family’s wishes, her family simply said a Kaddish (prayer for the dead) and started setting one less chair at the seder table on Passover. Sixty years later only two members of her family would speak to her. (Aren’t family grudges stupid?) One of those two was Tom’s Great-Aunt Fannie and his Great-Uncle Otto.

Tom remembers that Otto still had the tattooed numbers on his arm from Auschwitz. He’d been collected from his home, transported, numbered and then, luckily, transferred to a work camp. Fannie found Otto there and she managed to bribe his way out. Somehow the two worked their way through unfriendly, Nazi-occupied Europe and to the U.S. Many others from the family weren’t so lucky and never saw the outside of the iron-gate with the “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes one free) motto outside Auschwitz again.

 

Main Gate to Auschwitz

 

So what does a gas chamber and the Holocaust have to do with legal nurse consulting? It may seem like a stretch, but it simply comes down to living with integrity. The other day I was mentoring a legal nurse consultant who faced a difficult choice. An attorney-client who gave her a substantial amount of business gave her an ultimatum: stop working with certain competing attorneys or risk losing his business. If she gave in to his demand, she would keep his business – but at the cost of losing her integrity. After all, if she gave into that demand, what would his next demand be?

Integrity-based decisions are not always easy. After standing in the gas chamber at Auschwitz and in the women’s barracks at the adjacent camp of Birkenau, I’ve seen what can happen when a person’s integrity is broken. If you think about it, all the things we treasure, our family, our possessions, our success, our dignity and our individuality can all be stripped from us. Standing in such a horrific place, I realized how easily we can lose everything – everything except our personal integrity.

If you’ve ever read Viktor Frankl or talked with a Holocaust survivor, you know that each day in the midst of unimaginable cruelty, the Holocaust victims had to decide how to treat others and handle themselves with integrity. Without integrity, even living through those conditions would not guarantee surviving the memories afterward. I couldn’t help wondering how my own integrity would hold out in that situation.

The choices we make determine whether we live a free life or a life imprisoned, and I’m not talking about a physical jail cell. No one would voluntarily imprison herself and be her own warden, yet every time we breach integrity we sentence ourselves to a mental jail. This all came to mind while speaking with this nurse who, to me, had a much simpler and easier choice than anyone ever faced in a concentration camp.

Ironically, the very thought that “work makes one free” was what was troubling this legal nurse consultant. She simply needed to make a choice to keep or break her integrity. I couldn’t make her decision for her, but did encourage her to honor her integrity. When I hung up the phone she was still undecided and still troubled.

About a month later I received a call from her. She made the choice to be true to herself and to what she wanted for her CLNC® business. She was now happier, relaxed and successful on her own terms.

Temptations abound in not only the business world, but also in our personal lives. No matter how complex a decision appears on the surface, when stripped down to basics, I tell people it’s simple: do what’s right, not what’s easy or most appealing. Remember, no matter what choices you make in your life – they should all be integrity-based. Integrity has the final say in whether we will rise or decline, be whole or broken. When uncompromising integrity is our guide, then our personal and CLNC® success is authentic.

Here’s to your authentic CLNC® success.

Success Is Inside!

P.S. Please comment and share your experiences with integrity-challenging decisions.

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13 thoughts on “Where Will Your Integrity Take You Today?

  1. I actually was lucky enough to take an entire semester course on the Holocaust & have read & seen many stories. Here in our area, we have a large Jewish population & have a Holocaust museum which is excellent. My great-grand parents were from Poland but luckily came over during WWI. I am thankful they were not in their homeland during those times. I agree, This has been your best blog.

  2. I have a relative who made the decision that her integrity was not all that important. When she decided to start her own business, she stabbed in the back the person who had helped her get into that line of work in the first place. She covered her tracks, by burying a statement in her resignation, and then bragging about it. When questioned, she said, “That’s the way it is in the business world.” I could never work that way. If it means that I am not as “successful”, then so be it. I have to look at myself in the mirror each morning. I’d rather see someone who is honest than someone who is rich!

  3. This is probably a blog I will not forget. I had to leave the movie “Schindler’s List” due to nausea. Later I was able to visit the Holocaust museum in DC. I absolutely can’t imagine such a life.

    Your comment on integrity is so true. This reminds me that the current challenges I face at my real job are minor. This blog inspires me to really step up my efforts to increasing my CLNC business and control my own destiny.

  4. Thank you Vickie for this message. I am still a beginner student working toward my CLNC certification that I’m hoping will eventually remove me from the roles of permanent disability and help me to become a productive member of society again. Integrity and losses have up to now been my life’s story for two decades. I am 56 years young & plan on becoming the best CLNC there is, and it has become an open door with a new pathway toward a new beginning. I figure, at age 56, I have at least a 30 years career as a CLNC ahead of me.

  5. Integrity can be challenging to maintain and yet is so easily breached many times by what seems to be the best choice. The consequences of decision making in our CLNC® businesses can be catastrophic to our success in the business world.

    Vickie, this blog is very sobering and eloquent in describing the conditions and circumstances that one may find him or herself in when choosing to do or not to do the right thing – maintaining integrity. What will I choose when outside forces have stripped me of everything? This is the test that thankfully I am hypothetically taking and striving to pass.

    I am also thankful that integrity can be restored. The consequences may not be reversed, but I can recognize my error and in good faith exercise humbleness.

    Thank you for the lessons in integrity and teaching us to choose the high road.

  6. Great blog! I’ve been reading your blogs faithfully, but have not commented until today. To complement your blog, I would like to suggest a great book for all CLNC® consultants: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Simply stated they are: 1) Be impeccable with your word. 2) Don’t take anything personally. 3) Don’t make assumptions. and 4) Always do your best.

  7. I love the blogs and the morals behind them and this one was just another example of how moral and ethical the Milazzo Institute is. In today’s world it is far to easy to do the wrong thing, for what you may think were the right reasons. Just as Vickie said, when faced with a decision of any sort, undress it down to the moral integrity part and the answer doesn’t seem so hard. Thanks Vickie for all the good and moral advice you give.

  8. While each one of your blogs is very helpful, I have to say this one is one of the most powerful and meaningful. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Vickie, thank you for this inspiring blog. It comes at a time when we personally, along with the entire country must hold our integrity above all else.

    Regarding our fellow CLNC® consultant’s situation, this is a classic example of why you encouraged us to formulate mission and vision statements for our business. During the times of tough decisions when can look at them and remember why we do what we do.

    Integrity is one of the best things values I have shared with my children.
    It is so important to me that my company proclaims “Service with Integrity.”

  10. Very powerful and inspiring! I have always been interested in the Holocaust and what those people endured…The movie “Boy in the Striped Pajamas”….that was a fine example of integrity….face all challenges with integrity!

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