Lessons From the Flag

The 4th of July usually gets our big bang of patriotism. So today, in my effort to reignite KK’s Candor, we celebrate Old Glory (#flagday) with this shared article from Harvey Mackay. Enjoy and stay tuned for some Karen originals to follow.

By Harvey Mackay

June 14 is Flag Day, celebrating the 13 stripes and the 50 stars that symbolize our humble beginnings and our growth into one unified nation.

On June 14, 1777, in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution that read the following: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”

The resolution didn’t mention the significance behind the choice of red, white and blue — because the three colors did not have any official meaning when the flag was adopted in 1777.

But have you ever stopped to think about the meaning of the flag’s colors? There’s plenty of symbolism there too. Red implies hardiness and valor. White stands for purity and innocence. Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. These qualities that our country was founded on should carry through in our lives and businesses today.

In an article on Time.com, Mike Buss, a flag expert with the American Legion, says that the most obvious reason for the flag’s colors is that they were simply taken from our mother country’s flag — the Union Jack of England. “Our heritage does come from Great Britain, and that was some of the thought processes that went about in coming up with our flag,” Buss says in the article.

I think it’s also important to connect how these colors relate to our working lives.

RED: Hardiness and valor stand for the ability to endure difficult conditions; determination in facing great danger, courage, and bravery.

Determination keeps people hammering away. Determined people possess the stamina and courage to pursue their ambitions despite criticism, ridicule or unfavorable circumstances. In fact, discouragement usually spurs them on to greater things. When they get discouraged, they recognize that to change their results, some change is in order.

Courage is regarded as one of the major human virtues. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerve all rolled into one. It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets us apart from the crowd.

WHITE: Purity and innocence are synonymous. They stand for freedom from moral wrong and simplicity. Those are tall orders in our complicated world, but worth striving for. Way back in 1872, Sen. Carl Schurz of Missouri paraphrased Naval hero Stephen Decatur with these patriotic words: “Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.” That sentiment is purity at its best.

Sen. Schurz would settle for nothing less than the best for his country. Similarly, we should demand the best from our businesses. Doing things right should be a way of life.

BLUE: Vigilance, perseverance, and justice are self-explanatory. Justice translates to fair play, honesty, and integrity.

Perseverance separates the winners from the losers. Success in life depends on your willingness to never give up, even when the reward is delayed.

Honesty, ethics, integrity — in my estimation, you can interchange them, because they all convey the single attribute that determines whether a person or an organization can be trusted. Honesty is always the best policy. You must be able to trust the people with whom you work. Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do.

Integrity: either you have it or you don’t. It’s not something that you can have one day and not have the next. Integrity begins at the top. As leaders, we must set the example — that alone inspires employees to do right. Enduring leaders know that the numbers will be better if integrity is not optional.

Our national values are well represented in the colors of our flag. Fly it proudly.

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