During an informal discussion, our Professor advised a few of us that one could not be truly happy unless one lived one’s life according to one’s principles. As an example, he said that he dabbled in the stock-market, but he never traded in shares of companies connected with the alcohol and tobacco industries since he was strongly opposed to the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

When one of us asked him why that was such a big deal, the Professor revealed that, six months earlier, his Investment Analyst had advised him to sell his shares in an engineering company and buy shares in a cigarette manufacturing company, but he had refused to do this as a matter of principle. Both company’s shares were trading at about Rs. 200 then. Now, the engineering company’s shares were trading at Rs. 210, while the cigarette company’s shares were trading at Rs. 240. If he had sold the engineering company’s shares and bought the cigarette company’s shares, he would have been richer by Rs. 30 per share! But he had absolutely no regrets.

In the process of adhering to his principles, our Professor had willingly given up the chance to earn a profit that was more than half his annual salary!

What a refreshing change from owners of alcohol businesses who remain teetotalers due to the ill-effects of alcohol, owners of tobacco product businesses who don’t consume their own products because they are carcinogenic, and religious leaders who gladly accept donations from alcohol and tobacco businesses despite preaching against alcohol and tobacco!

“Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.” – Abraham Lincoln

“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” – Stephen Covey

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” – Victor Hugo


21 thoughts on “Principles

  1. Praiseworthy example of holding on to principles. Most of the time, people tend to believe in certain things and practice the opposite!

    Your A to Z posts will make a nice book!

  2. I love this professor for holding on to his principles 🙂 Not usual these days, because normally in such conditions, ppl say, ” I’m just buying the shares, not the products, so my principles are still alive” 😛 But he seems to live the essence of his ideals in every way 🙂 !!

  3. With being principled, one gets mental solace and happiness which might surpass materialistic benefits. I do not download any movie or books unauthorized or buy from street side vendors selling at a much less price. I end up paying more when compared to others in the same economic class I belong as a citizen but I feel good about it. Thanks for sharing this post….

    • That’s nice, Jayanta!
      What you haven’t stated is that most people around you probably poke fun at you, openly or behind your back, for being principled, but, ultimately you must do what you are comfortable with, not what they think is ‘smart’.

  4. I fully agree with the fact that our actions need to be true to what we believe in or what are principles are. However, it is never black and white for me. There are also practical difficulties in understanding the impact of following through on your principles and more importantly if that principle itself is good for the society.

    As an example, when I buy clothing, in almost all cases they are manufactured in third world countries and I do not support the wage and working conditions in that country. Should I boycott? Would a struggle today in Bangladesh create a middle class later? Do not know the answers.

    I have finally decided to say what I feel and do as I say but more importantly do what makes me feel good. At the end of the day who is to judge my moral values? And who is to say that my (or your) moral values passed on to us by our parents and fine tuned by our experiences are not misguided?

  5. Pro, my biggest struggle is usually with those who compare being principled to being practical. There are so many people around, including my better half, who will prefer looking at things through the lens of practicality, before looking at them through the lens of their principles.

    • Unfortunately, we have got so accustomed to respecting ‘street-smartness’ that we fail to realise that, in the long run, being principled is being practical.

      Everybody says, “Let others become principled first. I’ll become principled later.”

      Most principled persons face the struggle that you are facing. You have to figure out how you will handle it. All I would suggest is: don’t compromise on your principles in important matters. Be a bit flexible on not-so-important matters. Secondly, don’t be judgemental about people who prefer to be ‘practical’ rather than ‘principled’.

  6. I have tried to live my life by my principles and believe that I’m better off for it. Truly commendable act by the professor. I bow to such people.

  7. its such a delicate balance…whether u succumb to temptations or stay by ur principles…..and its so much easier to succumb…! it needs a lot more courage to stick to our principles, but when we do that it leaves us light and peaceful!

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