Confucius believed that, although people want to be rich and/or famous, benevolence and high moral standards are the guidelines to everything. Gentlemen would never overlook morality in their pursuit of fame or fortune. However, in modern society, some people believe that these ideals are obsolete.
Economic development is one of the main goals of nations and individuals. Many business models exist based on the experience and wisdom of those who are successful. Some stress innovation, ways to compete, utilizing a variety of channels, studying minute details, execution effectiveness, proper organization, speed of execution, etc. The purpose of these models is to quickly build wealth in the face of steep competition. In such environments, can people with high moral standards be successful? The answer is “yes.”
There are “four sages of management” in Japan. Kazuo Inamori, founder of the Kyocera Group and ex-CEO of Japan Airlines, is one of them. Inamori started from scratch and established two Fortune 500 companies—the Kyocera Group and the second largest telecommunications company in Japan, “KDDI.” For over 50 years since its founding, the Kyocera Group has never lost money, an astounding achievement.
When asked about the secret of his success, Inamori has an incredibly simple answer. He believes that the most important thing in life is to ask the fundamental question: “Why are we here?” His answer is: “We are here to improve our character and cultivate our soul. We want to be a morally better person than when we were born, and there is no other purpose. In order to understand why we are here, we need to seek a righteous path.” He believes that there is no difference between how to conduct ourselves in our daily lives and how to manage a business.
Inamori’s idea is rooted in the Eastern traditional culture, especially the Buddhist culture. His wisdom is based on the philosophical views of Confucianism, in particular to respect Heaven and love people, and Buddhism, including diligence, generosity and self-cultivation. He believes that building a business is done by man, which is why the manager’s character and moral standards are very important. If the manager does not have high moral standards, he cannot manage well. Hence, he must improve his character in order for his business to advance. Therefore, the secret to success is to improve one’s character.
Inamori was 27 when he founded the Kyocera Group. He did not have any experience at the time and did not know how to manage a company. He decided to follow his parents and teachers’ advice regarding the importance of honesty, humility, trust, gratitude, sincerity, tolerance, patience, integrity, justice, respect, being considerate, industrious, frugal, enduring hardship, not holding grudges or jealousy, remembering that a disadvantage may turn out to be an advantage, etc. These concepts are all basic moral standards. He finds answers to all problems based on whether they are right or wrong, good or evil. In short, his judgment is based entirely on his conscience. He maintained this baseline throughout his life and led his company to success by taking a righteous path.
The ancients believed that life, death, riches, and the social status one can reach depended on fate. The foundation of life is being just and moral. Acquired fortune is a measure of one’s moral conduct and virtue. The ability to accumulate riches is the result of being morally good. While acting in a just and morally correct manner cannot guarantee riches in this life, morally bad people do invite poverty and disaster into their lives.