CEO John Thain resigned from Bank of America yesterday.

His departure comes amid allegations about the bank and his personal spending habits–which seem to have been out of control. What can we learn from Thain’s plight? I’ll be posting, over the next few days, some of the key lessons (principles) we all need to remember in order to stay above the fray of any culture we live and/or work in. So here we go…


1) As much as we shape our environment, our environment can shape us

Thain was apparently both competent and well liked as a Wall Street insider. I’m sure there was a time in his career where he would not have dreamed of buying a $25,000 commode. But, alas, our culture shapes us as much as we shape it. And, if we are not vigilant it will shape us in ways that are not good for us or those we live and lead with. At some point, it became both acceptable and even perhaps expected that Thain would spend money in the “thousands” the way most people spend money in the hundreds (or less). The fast paced, high rolling Wall Street culture likes to spend money–lots of it. The question for Thain should have been and for us is, “When am I becoming to defined by this cultures norms?”

We have to learn to both appreciate the amazing benefits of any culture (organizational or otherwise) and yet simultaneously stand apart from it in order to ensure there is a more to us than the environment in which we swim. In order to do this we have to practice a kind of humble refleciton–always being willing to take the hard look at ourselves and the places where self deception can creep in. Further, we have to be willing to allow people, in our lives, to tell us the truth when they see us veering off into $25,000.00 commodes.