Compass Points for Success

What does it mean to have good character? And why does character matter? Lorne Rubis developed a theory of the “Character Triangle”, a trio of characteristics that not only strengthen your own character but allow you to influence others and make an impact.

Who Is This?

Lorne Rubis is a somewhat atypical personal development book author because he doesn’t appear to be a consultant or coach of any kind. A one-time high school teacher and coach, he has also been a vice president at US West, a VP of Business Operations for the LA Kings Hockey Club, VP of Sales and COO of Zones.com, CEO of Stellar One and Ryzex, and currently Chief People Officer at ATB Financial. In other words, he’s a fairly successful businessman with no particular self-help-industry experience who came up with a theory of success and wrote a book about it.

What’s the Big Idea?

Rubin maps out three principles that are the corners of the Character Triangle. These attitudes are designed to reinforce each other and lead to long-term success.

Respect: Seeking to understand and show empathy to those we work with and those around us. Respectful people support a culture where everyone genuinely listens to others to gain understanding, gives recognition to others for their contributions, and treats each other politely. This kind of respect does not need to be earned; it should be offered to everyone, unconditionally.

Accountability: Seeking in every situation to identify what action you can take to improve things or move towards success. Rubis contrasts this approach with the idea of placing blame. And while he condemns finger-pointing, he also cautions against trying to simply take on blame yourself. Ultimately, figuring out who is to blame for a situation is not particularly useful information. An accountable person instead wants to figure out “what do I do now to make things better?”

Abundance: Seeking to believe that the world is full of opportunities for growth, and especially mutual growth. People with an abundance mindset are generous and optimistic because they don’t see the world as a zero-sum game. They cultivate a sense of gratitude and a belief that it is possible to get everything they need. This doesn’t mean, Rubin notes, that bad things never happen or that we should passively wait for good things to find us; rather, abundant people believe that good things are possible and are motivated to pursue success due to that positive mindset.

My Take

The Character Triangle is, in the final analysis, barely a self-help book at all; it’s less about becoming individually successful and more about making yourself a good member of, and positive force within, your communities.

I like that Rubis doesn’t make any big promises about how following his program will make you rich, famous, or universally loved. He’s honest that he’s seen this kind of behavior in all types of employees, from line workers to C-suite executives, as well as in many different job conditions.  I appreciate that he openly acknowledges that people may face serious challenges and difficulties. He doesn’t promise an easy life or guarantee that your work problems will be solved if you adhere to the Character Triangle. He simply asserts that you’ll feel that you’re working with integrity and making a real, valuable contribution to your coworkers and those you serve.

I also love something he says in the first section of the book: “While the values of accountability, respect, and abundance are generic in definition, these values will be exclusively yours in application.” In other words, this isn’t a straitjacketed one-size-fits-all approach.

On the downside, the writing is weak. Rubin has certain writing quirks that quickly become distracting – so many “unnecessary” words in quote marks for any phrase that the author “feels” less than confident about.

This book is also not exactly full of new ideas. If you’ve read The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, you won’t find any surprises here. The ideas that Rubis posits about the values of accountability, abundance, and respect are as close to universal truths as you’ll find in the world of personal development books.

Finally, there’s no system or ten-week schedule of implementation here. There are plenty of suggestions about actions you can take, but all of them boil down to: every day, every hour, every minute, try your best to act in accordance with these principles. I don’t mind that approach – I tend to believe that success isn’t a matter of knowing a special secret, but rather of consistently practicing certain behaviors – but it means you have to do a lot of the work of figuring out how to implement these strategies in your own life.

Meant For

Those who haven’t already read a ton of self-help books; like I said, the ideas here aren’t exactly new. People who are looking for a grounding, principle-driven approach to becoming better. Someone who is not necessarily interested in get-successful-quick promises but instead wants to feel like good citizens of their world/city/company/family.

Bottom Line

If the ideas described are appealing to you – and especially if the “most people suck, you are a special person who will learn the Secret to Success” attitude of many self-help books rubs you the wrong way – The Character Triangle is worth a look. It’s a reminder of things you probably already know, rather than an introduction to something new, but sometimes a reminder is what we need.

The Character Triangle: Build Character, Have an Impact, and Inspire Others by Lorne Rubis – 174 pages – published 2011 by Langdon Street Press

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2 thoughts on “Compass Points for Success

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