Stand Right

Which attributes of character are most important to you?

Stand for what is Right, even if you stand AloneAs a thought experiment, ask a dozen individuals this question: “Which attributes of character are most important to you?”

The people you ask can be your close friends, your worst enemies, or random transients on the street. The odds are very good that nearly every one of them will include with their answer: “Honesty.”

Why, then, do we struggle so much to be honest with ourselves, and others?

One of the greatest statesmen of all times was known by his moniker, “Honest Abe.”

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

Abraham Lincoln
American 16th US President (1861-65)

How many times are we tempted to cheat (just a little) to win?

How many times are we tempted to take (just a little) advantage to succeed?

How many times are we tempted to go along to get along (with wrong) to fit in?

That word choice by Abe: bound. Sure feels constraining, limiting, and subservient. Doesn’t it?

Yet, Abraham Lincoln knew true winners set their mind in thought and engage their hands in action to be honest to whom they are at the core: “I am bound to be true.”

Achievers know they are wonderfully made, unique, and one-of-a-kind, with much to offer the whole wide world. They believe, “I am bound to live by the light that I have.”

Yes, I know, easier said than done.

In fact, knowing something and doing it are two, entirely, different things. One is fairly easy; the other is extremely difficult. Actions speak so much louder than words, though. Hard is easy; easy is hard.

What is Right? And, then by antithetical definition, what is Wrong?

One absolute truth is that Right and Wrong cannot be legislated. Every group, clan, civilization, and country sets forth a Code of Ethics. Yet, individuals make choices from their heart and soul.

Please, invest the time to discover the answer to this question, for yourself:
“What is my deepest innermost value?”

Once we identify our (individual) value, we can be true to ourselves and live by our light.

We must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with them while they are right, and part with them when they go wrong.


Next time you’re engaged in an animated disagreement, ask this simple question: “What is more important: Process, or People?” The silence will be deafening.

OopsA recent experience with an international, multi-billion-dollar Company has been quite enlightening, as to their very broad definition of: Mistake. Is the issue merely one of semantics? Or, is there a deeper taint on our societal moral code of behavior?

Is it a “mistake” to intentionally obscure the truth and deliberately tell lies to cover up bad judgment and hurtful actions? Or, is that an unethical breach of conduct?

First of all, a quick look at the definition:

Mistake [mɪˈsteɪk]


1. an error or blunder in action, opinion, or judgment

2. a misconception or misunderstanding

vb -takes, -taking, -took, -taken

1. (tr) to misunderstand; misinterpret “she mistook his meaning”

2. (tr; foll by for) to take (for), interpret (as), or confuse (with) “she mistook his direct manner for honesty”

3. (tr) to choose badly or incorrectly “he mistook his path”

4. (intr) to make a mistake in action, opinion, judgment, etc.

[(meaning: to do wrong, err): from Old Norse mistaka to take erroneously]

Problems are opportunities in disguise. Mistakes are like that, too. We all have them (problems) and we all make them (mistakes). In fact, we learn by doing. So, the secret is to make lots of mistakes and embrace the opportunity to learn from them.

There is a difference, though, in the “Oh, oops” moments and the “I’m so very sorry” occasions. The first is when we make a mistake and no one else is affected by our defective actions, opinions, or judgments. The latter is when our poor choices hurt another person and we quickly ask their forgiveness, while offering to make them whole.

We learn to walk by falling down. Falling down is a mistake, if we’re desirous of walking. This kind of mistake, made in the process of learning, is of the first variety. As toddlers, we made the mistake many times, hurt no one (else), learned from it, and moved on to running.

One-on-One, as individuals, we know when the second variety of hurtful mistake is made. Generally, we recognize our folly and, immediately, apologize. Sometimes, we are unaware of the impact of our choices on another person. If that other person perceives a mistake by us, that becomes their reality and our opportunity to grow.

Relationships are built by caring about, listening to, and understanding the reality of another person. Many times, the catalyst for strengthening a relationship can be our unintentional mistakes. Mature individuals will freely communicate their perception of the impact of our choices on them. As a result, we bask in the happy moments and ask to mend the hurtful ones.

Why then does that dynamic change when an individual is an employee of a Company?

For the great sport of it, the next time you’re in an animated conversation with the representative of a Company, who is playing semantics with your emotions, and you have heard the words “mistake” and “process” one too many times, ask this simple question: “What is more important: your Company processes, or People?”

The silence will be deafening.

In that instant, a Company employee becomes an Individual, once again, and realizes that their Customer is an Individual, too!

With the situation re-framed as a relationship of One-on-One, the original “mistake” (to take erroneously) can be fixed. The stage is also set for the appropriate apologies of conduct less than ethical. If none are offered, the individual Customer will do business elsewhere; and, in time, the odds are good that the employee hiding behind the bureaucracy of Company processes will find themselves as an individual, one more time, without a Company and a Job.

Regardless of the semantics, mistakes provide the opportunities for us, individually, to grow. Mistakes will be made, guaranteed. They are the defining moments for each of us to do the right thing and build a dynamic relationship!

Code of Action

One little four-letter word is the Code for understanding the process of growth — for ourselves and others. “If it is good, do it with passion.”

(Click To Enlarge)

According to John Wayne, “A man’s got to have a code — a creed to live by, no matter his job.”

Behind every computer process are miles and miles of code. It is purposefully written to achieve a specific result.

What is your code? Do you have a creed to live by?

Mother Nature hates a vacuum. Unless we have diligently trained our mind and protected our heart, we are operating on a program designed by another. Rather than being the Captain of our own destiny, we might be on autopilot.

Consider this jingle, “If it feels good, …” By rote, we finish the sentence with, “do it.” Why, do we? Grab the controls of your life and let’s examine our codes.

On March 3rd, 2010, the state of Wyoming accepted into law a bill declaring The Code of the West the official state code of ethics. The ten principles come from author James P. Owen and his book Cowboy Ethics.

1. Live each day with courage.

2. Take pride in your work.

3. Always finish what you start.

4. Do what has to be done.

5. Be tough, but fair.

6. When you make a promise, keep it.

7. Ride for the brand.

8. Talk less and say more.

9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

10. Know where to draw the line.

There is nothing new under the sun. It even seems strange to reference the unwritten that was the guiding light for the early pioneers.

Yet, these principles were also chronicled by the famous western writer Zane Grey in his 1934 novel The Code of the West and by Ramon Adams a Western historian in his 1969 book The Cowman and His Code of Ethics. The Cowboy Code has been communicated in a variety of ways — by an army of fictional and real life heroes.

Knowing what to do — and Doing it — are two very different concepts.

Since the hedonistic programming of our society subtly soothes our selfish nature with the mantra of If it feels good, do It, we might not even know what we are doing.

A better approach to our growth (and, the growth of others) is possible by understanding: If it is good, do It — with Passion.

Speaking of which, let’s consider a simpler way of remembering all of the Code necessary for a life of joy and purpose. One four-letter word contains the foundational elements of good Code — LOVE.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

Take all of the code — the perfect lists of ten — from the many tough men, and you will find the true abode for peace of mind and purpose of will.

It is discovered in a Code of Action.

Here To Help You

Do our Public Servants understand that they work for you, me, and that group, so eloquently defined by President Lincoln as, “We the People?!”

One on OneUpon hearing an auditor remark, “I’m only here to do my job.”; I always wonder, “Who wrote the job description?” And, do they understand that they work for you, me, and that group, so eloquently defined by President Lincoln as, We the People?!

This is a story about our Government in action. It is a real story told through my correspondence to the Commissioner of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Brace yourself; Truth is stranger than fiction!


Dear Commissioner:

The purpose of this correspondence is to ask for your assistance in providing relief from hardship being incurred by Montana Small Business, as a result of audit efforts by the Department of Labor and Industry.

Recent experiences with small business owners clearly demonstrate that their treatment by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry is different than your public message:

Our mission is to promote the well being of Montana’s workers, employers, and citizens, and uphold your rights and responsibilities. We, at DLI, do this by remaining steadfast to our core values of customer focus, individual responsibility, individual growth, ethics in the workplace, and continuous improvement.

Quite simply and to clearly communicate the seriousness of the matter, without your intervention to promote an equitable approach to a relatively new law, Montana employers will not be able to continue in their businesses. At a time of historical high unemployment, I ask for your patience as I present this issue for your consideration.

The Issue: Employee vs. Independent Contractor

As foundational information, please refer to my recent Blog Post: Have Your Papers

Of the many Montana Small Business owners who are working hard to be in full compliance with labor laws, we will examine the fact pattern of one, who has reached out to me for help.

This small Company has provided employment to at least a dozen Employees for the last fourteen years that it has been incorporated. Its history of service and value to the Billings community goes back many years prior to that. To properly manage its business obligations, the Company uses the most recent release of QuickBooks accounting software and pays extra for the Enhanced Payroll Subscription. In recognition of the Company’s excellent employment practices, the DLI has assigned a Zero unemployment tax rate for the year of 2008.

In audit, the practice of this Company in hiring independent contractors (in addition to its Employees) is being challenged in ways far beyond a test to the actual Montana Law, and Administrative Rules. This business owner, an older lady, is having her core persona attacked.

She has diligently received contract documents from those holding themselves out to her as independent contractors, asked for invoices and statements of account, and furnished Forms 1099-MISC to these contractors. The technical aspects of the AB Test have been met.

The only thing, of which she was unaware and lacking in this story, is the Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate.

Before moving forward to take a look at the requirement for an Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate, let’s consider two activities which appear to require a Certificate; yet, are not being challenged by DLI.

1.) Bank Director Fees
2.) National Guard Recruiting Fees

In preparing many personal income tax returns for the Directors on the boards of Montana banks, I know for a fact that they receive Forms 1099-MISC reporting their remuneration as Non-employee Compensation. That income is, then, properly reported within their individual income tax returns on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business.

This last tax season revealed another twist to compensation paid to a Montana Guardsman by an Alabama company. This young man enlisted in the National Guard. He was encouraged to get his buddies to sign up, too. The “compensation” for doing so was reported on a Form 1099-MISC as “Non-employee Compensation” from a Company who, evidently, provides services for the U S Military.

The question that begs to be answered:  “Why is it OK for a multi-million dollar company to make payments and report them as Non-employee Compensation to a Montana resident; yet, a small Montana Company is being accused of improprieties?!”

On behalf of the small Montana Company, I ask for fairness in negotiating through the audit issues of the past, to provide this business owner the opportunity to continue to be a good citizen and a great employer.

The Facts: Government vs. Montana Company

1.) This new law was not administratively practical (ARM 24.35.141) until August 12, 2005.

2.) There is still ambiguity for Hiring Agents. Specifically, please, see the first two cites for the Montana Supreme Court Decisions applicable to this issue. Montana employers are given the impression that they can rely on the Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate; yet, “an employer has the obligation to make an initial good faith inquiry to determine whether the worker is an independent contractor in fact, as opposed to merely in name.” (If the State of Montana, with all of the taxpayer resources at its disposal cannot decisively make that determination, after asking for a sworn affidavit from an applicant, what hope is there for the Employer?!)

3.) Yet, the Montana Company, above, did just that: they made a good faith inquiry and determined that those whom they hired as Independent Contractors did, indeed, meet the factual test in more than name, or certificate.

4.) The audit representative for DLI expressed the Department’s approach by stating, “While we acknowledge this is a relatively new law and provided a grace period for the years 2006 and 2007, we are now putting the hammer down.”

5.) The lady in the story, above, and her Company have never before been audited.

6.) Of those she compensated as contractors for the years of 2008 and 2009, the majority have, now, obtained their status as Registered Independent Contractors, recognized by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry as such.

7.) Since the UI Contribution Rate for her Company is Zero, the real issue is the assessment of Worker’s Compensation rates, Social Security, Medicare, and other Federal taxes against payments she made to other Business owners for the value of their services, who have reported and already paid the taxes on their business income.

Our country was formed in revolution against “Taxation without Representation”. An even greater curse is “Double Taxation through Misrepresentation”.

The solution to all of this is to use the Audit Process to educate, not to punish.

In your words:

“We, at DLI, do this by remaining steadfast to our core values of customer focus, individual responsibility, individual growth, ethics in the workplace, and continuous improvement.”

That’s all I ask for the benefit of Montana Employers. I am available to facilitate an equitable resolution in the case above.