The Huberman Problem: Integrity Counts, Always

Behavior has consequences. Integrity matters. This was on my mind when I read the Andrew Huberman profile in NY Mag this week. My thoughts went to no more hall passes on egregious behavior; what we do in our personal lives absolutely matters with what we do in the rest of our lives. As has been said before, what we do anywhere is what we do everywhere. I am not singling out Huberman, whose behavior is atrocious by any standard, especially for someone who puts themselves out there as an expert trusted authority.

Having read comments on social media from young men wanting to repeat what he is doing was an appalling failure of leadership. This is but one example of how the bar has come down on what we as a society seem willing to accept, justify, overlook and even imitate. We count, all of us, and what we do and what we say matters, people notice, and people are impacted by us, regardless of our age or circumstance. If one has a platform and a public presence, this is massively magnified and even more problematic, but the concept remains the same: raise the bar, be the best person you can be if not for yourself, then for all the people around you.

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No More Hall Passes

It was maybe a month ago when I was out for dinner, that was frankly a disaster. I recall my mother’s voice saying something like “they mean well, they are doing the best they can”. Mom was always giving people a generous benefit of the doubt. She felt the same way about teenage sex offenders, I don’t. It was at that silly dinner, which was amusingly comedic in its failures, when I said to myself, no more hall passes, and not just at bad restaurants.  Sure, if we have a long term friendship with someone behaving badly, chances are we will come to their aid. They are most likely hurting in some way and need our support. Maybe. 

However when it comes to public figures, people who by their own design have amplified their effect, the math changes. There are no hall passes. There needs to be an admission of wrong, making amends to those impacted, and a long road towards becoming the sort of person who doesn’t do this stuff. Think of Robert Downey Jr, who, although brilliant, became too much of a liability until he did something about it. Exile is not permanent but requires more than high-priced crises PR. There is a reason most endorsement contracts have a morals clause: if you are a jerk, we can’t be associated with you.

Raising the Bar

All of us can raise the bar for ourselves. None of us is perfect, we all have bad moments, hopefully our bad moments are just occasional outbursts we can learn from. We don’t learn from our successes as much as learn from our failures. To be clear here, I am in no way giving a pass to bad behavior-what I am saying is that we need to try to be better, kinder, more helpful people, all of us. For the truly disturbed, this may require being cast out to get the needed attention to actually change. My spirit of generosity is not what my mom had. To me, although I would like to care about what your intentions were and your past history, what matters are actions. Intentions don’t affect others, it is our actions.

For the bad-behaving person, unless truly sociopathic, chances are they understand at some level what is wrong, feel some shame, and do more bad stuff to cover up the shame of the original offense. This goes both ways. Helpful, positive, and generous actions feel good and are good for those around us and for our own self-validation. People of bad character are not just bad in one area of life, they don’t have a twin good person brain- their bad stuff will effect everything they do, although they may forestall in some sector, the threat will always be there. We are, to a large extent, defined by what we do when no one is watching. Choose your role models wisely, choose friends who keep a high bar of integrity, and choose to be the person who makes you proud. We can do this.

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