Welcome to Stuff I Learned Yesterday. My name is Barb Rankin, I saw the latest Star Wars adventure, Rogue One, at the movies this past weekend, and I believe that if you aren’t learning, you aren’t living. In today’s episode of Stuff I Learned Yesterday I talk about standing up for your beliefs.

Fun Fact:

Here are a few fun facts, without any spoilers, about the movie, Rogue One.

  1. The film’s working title was “Red Cup.”
  2. One of the titles considered for the movie was “Dark Times.”
  3. Visual effects legend John Knoll came up with the story and pitched it to Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilms. He worked on a few movies you know – Star Wars Episodes I, II, III, IV, and V, as well as Star Trek (The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine), and made uncredited appearances in SW I and III.
  4. Garry Whitta wrote the first draft of the screenplay and came up with the film’s title. He actually posted the title of the movie to his Twitter account at one point but no one knew it was the movie!
  5. This is the first Star Wars movie where the title of the movie is actually spoken in the movie.
  6. This is the first big screen Star Wars movie for which John Williams has not recorded the score. All you LOST fans will recognize the name of the composer! Michael Giacchino!

These fun facts were brought to you by inafarawaygalaxy.com and there are many other little tidbits about the movie – but don’t visit the site until after you’ve seen the movie, or you could be spoiled!

What I Learned Yesterday:

“We don’t need to pay those invoices. We bought that inventory as a favor to your Chief Financial Officer to help him make his year end numbers, and we’re going to send it back.”

What did he just say?

I had been employed by my publically traded company for 8 months, and was already troubled by some of the business and financial practices I had seen. I was visiting one of our out-of-state customers and we were reviewing over $1 million dollars of old invoices that they had not paid. I had also been asked to generally review their business practices, as my company was considering acquiring this customer.

This was more than two decades ago, several years before the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was enacted to protect investors from the possibility of fraudulent accounting activities by corporations. However I knew that if what the customer had told me was true, that if these purchases were not really purchases at all, that this would be inflating my company’s year-end sales in a deceptive business practice.

I returned from my trip and told my immediate supervisor what I had seen and what I had been told, and I advised against continuing discussions to acquire the company.

Two weeks later, my team and I were reviewing the accounting records of a local customer that our company was already acquiring, and one of my key team members came to me telling me that this customer had told her the same story – the local customer had not paid about $650,000 of her invoices to our company because she was told she could return the goods. She said she took the inventory at year-end as a favor to the CFO.  I again told my manager, who was clearly troubled by this news.

When another co-worker told me that there had been trailers filled with inventory parked on our company’s premises at the end of the year, and our company had counted those as “sales,” I felt strongly that this could be an improper accounting practice.

It also went against my beliefs. My beliefs of integrity in business, of honestly dealing with shareholders, customers, and employees, and of right and wrong. I had worked hard to build my reputation and I didn’t want to see it damaged through association with what I felt were inappropriate business practices. I had already spoken up and escalated my concerns. Would I stand up for my beliefs and continue to be associated with this company? I had to make a decision. 

Standing up for your beliefs is not always popular. There is a reason for the term, “silent majority,” with emphasis on silent. People don’t like confrontation. They don’t like being outcasts.

History is full of examples of people who lose their jobs, are ostracized, shunned by family and friends, and even killed for standing up for their beliefs. We tend to think about the more extreme examples, such as early American colonists, who fled England to avoid religious persecution, or early explorers who believed the world was round rather than flat, or people who stood up to Adolph Hitler and found ways to hide, shelter and protect members of the Jewish faith.

Perhaps lesser known, is Cynthia Cooper who, as the Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom, discovered a $3.8 billion dollar fraud at her company in 2002, and worked with her team to advise their audit committee and Board of Directors, forcing the resignation and prosecution of those involved in the deception. She stood up for what she believed, at the risk of losing her job, to do the right thing.

Seven weeks after the out-of state customer visit, I resigned from my company. I found another position with a new company and left the old one behind.

And the company I left? Three years after I departed it filed for bankruptcy, and the company was liquidated one year later.

Here’s what I learned.

I’ve learned to stand up for my beliefs, by setting an example for others. I’m not perfect, and will fall, but when I do, I will dust myself up, get up, and stand up for my beliefs again.

And when I stand up for my beliefs, I need to pick my fights wisely. I work at not judging others. I remind myself to be respectful when I disagree with someone else. I remind myself to be fair. Sometimes, I need to walk away, and I hope and pray that I will have the wisdom to know in which circumstances I should do that. But I need to stand up for my most important values and beliefs – those of faith, love, and character. These are non-negotiable.

How will I feel about myself if I don’t stand up for what I believe? If I compromise my morals or my ethics or my faith?

Each of us needs to decide what our core values and beliefs are, and decide whether we will stand by and live by those values and beliefs.

Our beliefs can change as we age and mature, and as we experience life. We can and should thoughtfully consider what is important to each of us, and how we will incorporate that into our lives.

Our morals.
Our values.
Our behavior.
Our stand on right vs. wrong.
Our stand on business, politics, religion.

You will respect yourself when you stand up for your beliefs. You will know who you are and what you stand for.

Make a difference.
Stand up for your beliefs.

As I sign off for the last time, my last Stuff I Learned Yesterday episode, I wish you a very blessed Christmas, filled with hope, love, and I wish for you a faith that can move mountains.

Believe it.

I’m Barb Rankin and this has been stuff I learned yesterday.

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