At USC, every student is encouraged to develop the five “Traits of a Trojan” which are:
While the practice of any, or all, of these attributes would surely lead to a more gratifying life, none of the five traits encourage a person to follow any sort of moral principles.
A truly good life can only be achieved when we realize a balance between personal achievement and an inner desire to abide by a moral code.
The “Traits of a Trojan” certainly aren’t bad; they’re simply incomplete. Although “Faithful” can be interpreted as including moral aspects, misdirected faith can lead a person further away from a moral life (look at the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, for instance).
The trait that’s absent from this list, and largely absent from society, is integrity.
Integrity is best defined, in my mind, as the decisions a person makes when making the wrong choice is easiest. Integrity completes the “Traits of a Trojan” by giving us a more well-rounded approach to success and the ability to create lasting connections with people on a deeper, more positive level.
The purpose of the five “Traits of a Trojan” is to help guide students at USC toward the “good life.” Unfortunately, there are several problems with society’s interpretation of what it means to live the “good life” that USC only perpetuates.
Society frequently provides an interpretation of the “good life” that is almost entirely based around money and status. Not only is this interpretation far too one dimensional, it’s portrayed inaccurately.
Take a moment and think about the most popular sitcoms from the last 20 years. Both Friends and How I Met Your Mother, two wildly successful shows, are both meant to portray the lives of an “average” group of friends. But in both shows this “average” group of friends reside in upscale apartments in New York City, apartments that realistically could not be afforded by anybody living off an average salary.
By neglecting to include integrity, or any trait that encourages ethics or morality, the “Traits of a Trojan” further support the notion that an ethical foundation is unnecessary to live a fulfilling life. Furthermore, USC leaves the term “good life” largely undefined. Supposedly this list of traits is going to lead us toward that good life, but how? What exactly does it mean to live “the good life?”
As opposed to being synonymous with wealth and a high standard of living, the “good life” should be associated with balance. Yes, making a lot of money and being skillful would be gratifying, but what good will your money do you if your lack of integrity has lost you all of your friends and family along the way?
On the contrary, if you went through your entire life upholding the highest level of integrity but you never pushed yourself to achieve anything meaningful, how fulfilling would that really be?
A truly good life can only be achieved when we realize a balance between personal achievement and an inner desire to abide by a moral code. The absence of either of these will leave you either unfulfilled or without any meaningful relationships. While many people assume that the key to having successful relationships is being charming or extroverted, neither will bring you a relationship of any kind if you have no integrity and you can’t be trusted.
As research is starting to prove, we’re all born with some degree of integrity – with the ability to determine right from wrong. It’s not something that magically disappears when we win a certain number of medals or we get an extra zero in our bank account.
Think back to when you were a child and you got a trophy for playing in Little League or a ribbon in your school science fair. When someone handed you that award, was your first thought, “Great, now I’m free to go put gum in my teacher’s hair?” In all likelihood, it wasn’t. If we can recognize the difference between right and wrong as children, why should we not hold adults to an even higher standard? To blame fame and fortune for the moral indiscretions committed by so many people is nothing more than a poor attempt at an excuse.
There is such a demand in today’s society for results, flare, and performance that few people stop to consider the means by which they’re achieved. By adding integrity to the “Traits of a Trojan,” we give moral direction to the personal achievement that the five original traits already promote. Many have tried to achieve the “good life” without incorporating integrity and their lives have been ruined with unyielding consistency. This leads us to one final question: if integrity, or the lack thereof, has had such a tremendous impact on the course of history, how would a generation of leaders with high integrity pave the way for a better future?