Leonardo DiCaprio plays the part of Jordan Belfort in the soon-to-be-released movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. The flick is in the genre of the classic, Glengarry Glen Ross, depicting the life and times of business tycoons who violate ethical lines to earn a profit. Of course, Glenngarry Glen Ross was fictional whereas Belfort is a real person. Whether real persons or fictional, I always appreciate the ethical lessons taught in these kinds of films.
In real life, Belfort has changed his ways and endeavored to move forward with his life including making payments into a victim restitution fund. He will be paying a long time, given the judge ordered him to repay $110.4 million. Capitalizing on his painful past, Belfort is making a living by consulting with companies on how to implement and maintain solid ethics.
While some like to criticize people like this, declaring they are unfairly capitalizing on their crimes, I prefer to leave room for mercy and grace. Let’s give the man a chance. If indeed his life change is genuine, then his actions will prove it. Truth tends to reveal itself in time.
Sometimes, when I am helping someone make a difficult decision that requires a clear yes or no answer, I use the pregnancy example:
“You are either pregnant or you are not pregnant. It cannot be a ‘maybe.’ It is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ situation. Which is it?”
I do this because it drives home the gravity and finality of the decision. Belfort takes a similar approach in giving ethics advice (Sheelah Kolhatkar, “The Man the Myth the Wolf” Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/11/13–11/17/13, pp. 72–76):
“You can’t be half-pregnant when it comes to ethics. Every time you step over the line and back again, the line moves a little bit. . . . There is no way to succeed in business without the highest ethical standards.” (p. 76)
I agree with Belfort. I would broaden it to say there is no way to succeed in life, personally and professionally, without the highest ethics.