It would seem that in today’s world integrity is a rare trait possessed by only a seldom few. While it may be true that we all do have our own subjective values, our collective ability to maintain and meet these values could definitely use a little improvement.
This isn’t totally surprising; we’re living in a society that praises competition and, in some senses, selfishness. Many people have developed an unwavering “dog eat dog” attitude about the world, tossing integrity to the wind for increased personal gain.
However, in this situation I’d argue that the ends don’t justify the means. Life isn’t a zero-sum game; we’re all allowed to win if we play with integrity. While sacrificing your personal values may come with certain short-term benefits, there’s also an enormous cost. After all, do you want to be thought of as the person who makes people’s skin crawl whenever you enter a room?
Of course not! Our values are some of the most defining features that we have, and tossing them aside is comparable to personality suicide. Needless to say we don’t want this; instead, this article aims to fully explore the power behind a well-developed and maintained sense of integrity.

What is Integrity?
Contemporary author Barbara Killinger offers a very straightforward definition of integrity. She states, “Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honor moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles.”
Simply put, integrity is your ability to honor your own personal values. It follows the idea of treating others how you would want to be treated; the values you expect from others should be the same as what you expect from yourself. It’s the polar opposite of hypocrisy, avoiding the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.
Overall, integrity is an unwavering commitment to do what you believe to be right and proper. This may seem like a basic human principle, but it’s a lot harder to find nowadays than you may think. That being said, this rare trait holds a considerable amount of power. Below is my personal story on how I discovered true integrity, along with the profound influence that it had on my life.

The Power of Integrity
Take a look around and you’ll notice that honest integrity (no pun intended) is almost nonexistent in society. I like to believe that we all have a certain level of good moral probity, but people in general are very prone to ethical shortcomings. Temptation is everywhere, and more often than not it seems that too many of us are willing to sacrifice our personal beliefs for instant gratification and greed.
However, society’s general lack of rectitude is an interesting problem because it often goes unnoticed. I can personally say that I never noticed the true rarity of integrity until I met a person who possessed it so eminently that I couldn’t help but be captivated.
This particular interaction happened in a very unlikely location: a shopping mall near the peak of the holiday traffic rush. It occurred long before I decided to launch this site, and at that time I was still at a pretty dark point in my life. I was anxious, depressed, and generally down on life, so I wasn’t exactly seeking out any higher morality or personal development at the time; I just wanted to finish my shift at work and go home.
When my shift was finally over I made my usual beeline for the exit. In my haste I almost passed up what would become a defining moment in my understanding of the human spirit. Thankfully my attention was caught by the sales stall positioned outside of my store, and it was there that I first met Mike Smiarowski.
Mike is a professional composer/guitarist, and as such he creates and sells CDs of his own music. His stand was set up every weekend during the holiday season, and he played selections from his “Island Fantasy” and “Island Fantasy: Part 2” CDs throughout the day. Along with his other two CDs he’s been on the Grammy award ballots in 18 categories for 4 out of the last 6 years.
However, before that day I had never decided to talk to the man whose music had come to inhabit most of my working hours. In retrospect, I’m very thankful that I decided to slow down and strike up a conversation on that day.
I remember that my first query was something along the lines of, “What keeps you smiling each day?” I was honestly curious, especially given my own miserable state at the time. I don’t recall how the rest of our first exchange went, mostly because from the very beginning I was so incredibly captivated by how “real” he seemed as he spoke to me. It’s a hard thing to put into words, but the whole time he gave off an aura of complete openness and honesty.
Never before had I met someone who had seemed so… human, in all the best aspects. Here was a musician with great national achievements, yet he spoke to me as if we were on the same level. He wasn’t at all pretentious; quite the opposite, he was so down to earth that I felt like I was talking to an old friend. I had become used to people talking to me (and each other) like they were all trash, so this was a startling juxtaposition from the usual mall crowd.
After our conversation was finished I headed home. However, once I was in my car I realized a startling thought; I had talked all that time to a man who was selling his wares, yet never once did he put on any pressure to get me to buy anything. Anybody else in Mike’s position would have viewed me as a potential customer and nothing more, yet he talked with me without the slightest notion of justifying my presence with a sale.
He spoke to me human to human. This may seem like a remarkably simple notion, but in my life I’ve never had that experience again. I think that humanity as a whole could greatly benefit from this basic practice.
Most people just want to push their own agendas or get ahead in life. To them you are simply an object, a means to an end. Speaking with Mike Smiarowski felt like the exact opposite; to him I was a person, and his simple recognition of that was remarkably gratifying.
Mike’s unyielding integrity is one of the best features I’ve ever seen in another person. Our conversation that day helped me out of my negative thinking slump, and it most likely indirectly lead to the development of this site. To use a clichéd notion, he effectively restored my faith in humanity.
What’s more, his probity was so noticeable that it earned him a sterling reputation along with others who have spoken with him. I remember originally recounting this story to a friend only to have him reply, “Mike Smiarowski? I know him! He’s the nicest guy ever!”
Every time I’ve left work since that day I always make it a duty to stop and say hi to Mike when he has his stand set up. I’ve also purchased all of his CDs, but not because of any pressured sales. Frankly, he could have been selling me the Brooklyn Bridge and I would have bought it, solely based on the amount of integrity he so earnestly possesses.
I encourage everybody to check out the site below and try a sample of what Mike has to offer. The music and production quality are both phenomenal, but the eminent integrity and friendliness behind the musician are even better. I’ve learned from our conversations that Mike has had some hard times in the past, yet his smile and his values still remain fixed and strong. This is a man who is a truly remarkable example of the compassion and respect that humanity is capable of.

Smear Records Official Website

Applications to Your Life
You may be wondering, “How does this affect me?” I believe that we all can learn a very valuable lesson from people like Mike Smiarowski. Just a simple conversation between the two of us inspired me enough to write an article based around it, and I’m only one of countless people that he speaks to each day.
Imagine all that you could do if you had the power to truly affect somebody’s life just by conversing with them. That influence could change the world, and it’s all based off of your integrity.
As we said earlier, you clearly don’t want to be the person who makes other’s skin crawl when you speak. But what about the opposite? Wouldn’t you like to have a 1500 word article written about you based completely off of your respect and rectitude? Wouldn’t you like to be the person who changes the lives of others through your demeanor and probity?
If your aim is to be liked and admired then developing your integrity is a great place to start. That single trait wields more power than most people realize, and it’s built in to each and every one of us. In Mike’s own words, “I’m like a ventriloquist. I make a piece of wood talk and sing, and that’s it.” His personal successes aren’t responsible for the profound effect he had on my own thinking, but rather his values and actions as a person.
Perhaps we all don’t have the intrinsic talent to be professional guitarists (I know that I certainly don’t!). However, I guarantee that we all possess the innate ability to change the world through our integrity. My challenge to you is to start to exemplify this notion of a strong, well-kept set of values. I think that with work we can make remarkable people like Mike Smiarowski less of a rarity and more of an everyday pleasure.

Author's Bio: 

Dakota is the founder of, a website created to help visitors unlock their true potential and become more well-rounded in all aspects of life. When not writing or working on improving himself he spends his time making silly faces, creating merriment, and otherwise frolicking.