Bobby Jones is considered one of history’s greatest golfers. But more than all his victories on the golf course, he’s famous for what happened in the 1925 U.S. Open.
He inadvertently touched his ball and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty, even though no one else saw him touch the ball. But he couldn’t violate his conscience. And by assessing himself that penalty, he lost the Open by that one stroke.
When tournament officials tried to compliment him for his integrity, Jones simply said, ‘You might as well praise me for not breaking into banks. There is only one way to play this game.’
Bobby Jones played by the rules. Full stop. And in doing so, he honoured the integrity of the game. One sportswriter wrote, ‘In the opinion of many people, of all the great athletes, Bobby Jones came the closest to being what we call a great man.’ Jones could have won the tournament, but he would have lost his integrity. And winning the U.S. Open wasn’t worth a one-stroke penalty on his integrity.
That’s epic integrity! And that’s something to be celebrated. We live in a culture that celebrates talent more than integrity, but we’ve got it backwards.
Talent depreciates over time. So do intellect and appearance. You will eventually lose your strength and your looks. You may even lose your mind. But you don’t have to lose your integrity. Integrity is the only thing that doesn’t depreciate over time.
Nothing takes longer to build than a reputation. And nothing is destroyed more quickly by one stroke of stupidity. That’s why your integrity must be celebrated and protected above all else.