There are many times in our lives when we have to make difficult decisions. These can be in life, work, financial matters, health, sport or romance.
But regardless of the occasion, we are called upon to make a choice, chose an option and decide upon a particular course of action.
In many cases, these decisions can be taxing. They can be moral dilemmas. They can have serious implications for people, which can resonate and impact for years beyond that fateful call you make.
In deciding the path to take, many people look for help from other areas. Advice from trusted mentors. Research. Some seek spiritual guidance.
In many situations, people place themselves in the shoes of another, and ask “what would this person do or have done in my situation?’ As an example, when it comes to forgiveness, they may ask what Mandela would have done. People have even gone to wearing wristbands with slogans like “What Would Jesus Do?” or WWJD to guide them through moral decision making.
For me, I have always looked to an alternative source of assistance in my decision making; one that I believe should be a standard point of reference for judgements you are called upon to make that could impact others.
What would Rick Astley do?
Rick burst onto the music scene as part of an ‘80s music movement in the UK that, unfairly, is seen as being more about fashion than talent. Bands and singers emerged with remarkable regularity, noted more often than not for their haircuts than for their music credibility.
However, an analysis of the lyrics of Astley’s main hit “Never gonna give you up” reveals a guide to life and a moral compass that many of us could take a leaf from.
Astley makes a series of statements in his song, deliberate intentions that he insists he will carry out, stick to regardless of the consequences and makes it his moral charter and promise for doing good.
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you.
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.
Simple lyrics you may say, and presented in the song and film clip in a jaunty happy way.
But within these 6 lines lie a commitment many of us would struggle to honour if we were tested. I call these the Astley Principles.
It’s Kipling’s “If” for our Generation.
Remember, that Astley doesn’t say he will consider these options, or hope that they will occur. He doesn’t pick and choose. He doesn’t say he’ll have a crack at not lying, or hope that he doesn’t make you cry. This isn’t about giving it your best effort. No, instead, he states publicly that he’ll never gonna do these things to the unnamed object of his affection. Never.
That’s a brave stand to take, something that I struggle to say I could uphold in every situation I was faced with.
The Harvard Business Review recently presented a history of management theory, including intellectuals such as Taylor, Drucker, Maslow and others. The publication looked at various approaches to the complex issue of leadership and business beliefs over many centuries.
Absent from that exalted list was Astley. (It was sadly more Peters and Waterman than Stock, Aitken and Waterman). However, I would argue that business decision making can be enhanced greatly if managers and leaders consider checking their decisions against the Astley principles.
Would James Hardie have covered up matters related to asbestos if the Board had asked itself if their actions would have told lies and hurt people?
Would the flood of manufacturing and call centre businesses keen to cut costs through outsourcing to the sub-continent have done so if they considered if their actions would say good bye to valued local employees?
Would Essendon have been in the jam they are in if Hird or Dank had stopped and asked if their pharmacological processes would let their players down at a later date?
Would the fires in Morwell have been managed better by the Victorian State Government if they had only asked if their inaction would be deserting their people?
Would Andrew Demetriou have booked Meatloaf if he’d first asked if there was a chance that decision would make us cry, let us down or hurt us?
Why didn’t they ask themselves what would Rick Astley do in this situation?
In sport, business, politics, war, public relations, international diplomacy, ethics and religion, I believe many difficult decisions in life can be set against the six Astley Principles to see what impact they will have against an individual, group of people and, nay, a country.
I strongly recommend using the Astley Principles in your everyday lives. Look at the decisions you have to make, and ask, “What would Rick Astley do here?”
Ethical Conduct (or sila), one of the Noble Eightfold Paths of Buddhism, asks that we act, speak and live in a non-harmful way. Google’s charter states it will not do evil.
Somewhere between mystical and ancient eastern philosophy and modern corporate governance and mission statements, I believe WWRAD should sit.
Ferris Bueller said that people shouldn’t believe in an ism, they should believe in themselves.
Don’t believe in isms. But believe in Astley. When faced with a decision, and you want to do the right thing, ask yourself this:
If he was here now, faced with this choice, What Would Rick Astley Do?