If you have character, you have the better part of wealth

Satyam Computers, once regarded as a corporate success story is now fallen from grace. Much is being written about fudging of accounts, role of auditors, role of regulatory authorities, government’s efforts in resolving the matter and strengthen the system of corporate governance. 


 It is not the first such episode. Nor is it going to be the last one, for sure. Enron, World-Com, Tyco and Global Crossing have dominated the newspapers headlines in the US, quite like the media attention that the Satyam saga is getting these days in India.  


The full story is still unfolding. There are several policy and regulatory recommendations in the offing. But will that be the solution is the key question. Laws/regulations alone will not suffice. Punishing those who are found guilty will also not be enough. People need to change from within and do business in an ethical way. It is time to do something about ‘integrity’ in our lives. John Griggs wrote a nice story “The Night We Won the Buick”, which I would like to share briefly.


A young boy was ashamed because his poor family was the only one in town that did not own a car. His mother used to advise him “if you have character, you have the better part of wealth”. However, the boy wondered what use was character if it could not buy a car. An opportunity came in form of a country fair in which a new Buick Roadmaster was to be raffled off.  His father’s name was announced as the winner. The boy was elated to see the dream come true. The brand new car was theirs. However, he found his parents engaged in an ethical debate. His mother explained the dilemma. Father had bought two tickets-one for himself and another one for his boss. He had marked the name of his boss on one of the studs.  The ticket that won the car was actually his boss’s, not his. The boss did not know the number of his ticket. The boy felt there was no need to inform the boss about it for the  boss was extremely rich; he possessed a fleet of cars already; and there was no way he was ever going to know that it was his ticket that won the car. However, the father phoned his boss and asked him to take the car. The family could not afford to buy a car for several years more and the boy grew up. As time went on, his mother’s aphorism, “ if you have character, you have the better part of wealth” took a new meaning for him. Looking back, he realized that they were never richer than they were at the moment, when his father made that telephone call, and returned the car to his boss. He did what was the right thing to do.


 … I am glad John Grigg’s story is included in school books ( I read it in my daughter’s school book). It is so important to give lessons in integrity and character at an early stage. It is time that business schools gave more focus in imparting practical lessons in integrity and ethical management of business.



23 Responses to If you have character, you have the better part of wealth

  1. vibha says:

    Thanks alot Afsir for sharing this story. I could’nt agree more. I think it is time we start conversations around such stories to locate our ethical stand. Unless and until we start appreciating such vlaues and integrity in a big way, we will be supporting the culture of unethical behaviour.

    The big questions is: We buy insurance to insure our cars, our health, our property, our life but what do we do to insure our VALUES?

  2. DR ANURAG VERMA says:

    Dear Afsar saheb,
    Thanks for keeping our moral fibre alive and,vibrant.we must all’ phone our bosses and give them their Buicks’. We had a moral science period with a proper moral science textbook in our primary school days.Those first few years of moral immunisation,instilled a sense of shame when we do something wrong.Swindlers, manipulators, traitors have been an integral part of human society since very early days,but all parents esp mothers put the fear of God in the children against the evil and improper.Rather than being judgemental why not pledge this moment that we shall follow the path of TRUTH, come what may. if nothing else we would sleep with a clear conscience.Satyam saga is an outcome of our own greed, i fear there are many more Mr Rajus’.This seems to be the tip of an iceberg.It is a natural outcome of a society which we have accepted,well aware of consequences. Best remedy start at home by nominating ourself first to the moral brigade. Isn’t this the moral of the Griggs story.INDIANS REREAD THE PANCHTANTRA THE SAGES HAVE SAID IT ALL. Wish you all a good nights sleep.
    dr anurag verma

  3. Amrita Dass says:

    Afsar, you have expressed profound thoughts on integrity and character. As you have emphasised, these issues must be discussed by parents and teachers from an early age. Also, beyond discussion, we have to be role models and live by what we advocate.

  4. Indrani says:

    The society in which we live today follows double standards. Everyone is busy running the rat race. Honesty, integrity, character and moral values are fast becoming rare. It is all right to talk about these things in speeches but when it comes to following the same in our personal lives nobody is interested. Why is this happening? We are becoming increasingly materialistic – happiness is measured by bank accounts and property owned, the media is blatantly promoting luxurious lifestyles, in educational institutions students are prompted to develop the killer instinct to excel in competition. In the midst of all these influences it is a little difficult to convince the young minds to cherish moral values and develop an honest character. But this not entirely impossible. I agree that we have to be role models and follow what we preach. They have to be convinced that in the long run developing a strong character is a sure way of reaping good returns – it helps to win friends, and even business partners/ loyal customers who repose their trust in you. Let us remember that we can achieve temporary highs through short cut methods but permanent peace and happiness can always be achieved with the wealth of character. Gandhiji has aptly put it ‘the roots of violence – wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principles’.

  5. rajeshnair53 says:

    Dear Sir,

    You have made my day. The profound words of yours have shown right path in our complex & busy life schedule. As a citizen these words are so true for our nation building too. It reminds me of few proverbs/ quotes to add here:

    1.“Character is property — it is the noblest of possessions”

    2.“Character is a victory, not a gift”

    3.“A man’s reputation is only what men think him to be; his
    character is what God knows him to be”

    4.“Education has for its object, the formation of character”

  6. Pauline says:

    Dear afsar,

    Agreeing with all these warm and true comments, I would like to thank you also for highlighting such a deep and important value: integrity.

    Obviously, this Value should be taught to each of us, thus from the beginning. However, rathing than being written in a book-what is already a proof of concern- it might be more efficiently broadcast through direct examples given to the next generations. Using words, expressions or proverbs are necessary to help people take the good and honest decisions, but putting it into practice is even more important.
    I am deeply aware that it is not that easy but that is something we have always to keep in mind in all our attitudes.
    An illustration is for me the education I received from my parents: They have been always trying to make my brothers, sisters and me adopt a real straight and respectful behaviour with all human beings. Without being given any specific rules or instructions but by observing their integrity only, we could understand what itntegrity meant: exactly like this young poor boy who finally did not get a car but whose treasure was greater…

    You are so right Afsar..
    The lack of integrity is exactly what we have to fight nowadays. Because of the turmoil so many people are feeling, and the apparent crisis of all values, which has occured for decades, it is time to pull the emergency cord. I am convinced that time has come to make people be hopeful again. To this end, including fair thoughts and acts in our daily life cannot be unsuccessful.

    Regarding the corporate governance or corporate social responsibilities, I think that despite some hypocrisy or image building’s strategies, even the business sector has taken into account that making profit and taking advantages of each situation regardless integrity, has hit its limits…
    Replacing the human person in the center and putting an end to selfishness is definitely the solution to a real progress.

  7. S.Mohammad.Afsar says:

    I thank all for these thoughtful comments. It shows how much we are all concerend about integrity. These insigthful comments added so much value to the post.
    Thanks once again. I look forward to share more ideas.

  8. priyadarshini says:

    well. this story I am reading in my school book. So, I found reference for this. I exactly don’t know what to say to you about it but it was reaslly nice to see your interest in such topic…

  9. S M baqar says:

    Warren Buffets , the richest person of the world after Bill Gates has donated 3/4th of his wealth in charity! He understand meaning of wealth better than other people.Recently he was quoted as saying about the sub prime crisis in America that led to economic recession ” when tide settled down then it became clear who was swimming nacked” It seems that whole corporate world is swimming like this.I have noticed that whenever I visits the book shops, a large number of books available on “how to become rich”. The quick formula of richness demands focus devoid of character.

  10. If you have character,you have the better part of wealth.WE may have wealth today we do not know about the coming years,we should also have moral ethics.REPLACING THE HUMAN PERSON IN THE CENTRE AND PUTTING AN END TO SELFISHNESS IS DEFINITELY A SOLUTION TO A REAL PROGRESS.

  11. well, i hav read this story in my literature book when i was in class 8 it was awesome

  12. shubham says:

    i liked this.

  13. gayathri says:

    may i know what will you do when you are in john griggs father’s position

  14. Breona says:

    Thank you so much i had to write a essay about this lesson….in my book thanks for the wonderful comments it helped me a lot…

  15. Mohd Abass khanday says:

    Very useful story

  16. sukriti says:

    wow! wat a story it teaches us a lesson

  17. miqdad mohd says:

    Thanks for keeping our moral fibre alive and,vibrant.we must all’ phone our bosses and give them their Buicks’. We had a moral science period with a proper moral science textbook in our primary school days……………………………………………………..

  18. punyakrit says:

    it is nice

  19. Dolfy says:

    thanks sir…….. this story has really helped me to complete my assignment’s summary

  20. Dolfy says:

    thanks sir……… this blog really helps me to make my assignment’s summary.
    a great thanks sir

  21. […] It is important that we all listen to our inner voice —our conscience—that keeps telling us the right thing to do. This reinforces the lesson I shared in one of my previous posts, “If you have character, you have the better part of wealth.” […]

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