WWRAD: a guide for moral decision-making (or How Rick Astley can change your life)

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?

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. Stuart Redman says

    Brilliant. Love it!

  2. Mickey Randall says

    Sean- I am among the millions who’d previously overlooked RA’s moral leadership. Thanks for alerting us. Although, I’d still go to Ferris first.
    I know I’m outing myself, but RA’s Cry For Help is not a bad song. There, I’ve said it.

  3. Who’d have thunk there’d be more to RA’s lyrics? My money would have been on it being something subliminal about buying more hair gel (and I reckon if we look a little closer, I reckon I might just be right!)

    Love how your pieces strive to make a difference, Sean, and a silky smooth read as always.

    PS. I noted a comment about Yes’s ‘Tales of Topigraphical Ocean’s’ on another piece earlier? Never thought I’d come across a reference to that on this site (and makes a nice change from all the Bruce obsessiveness (not that there’s anything wrong with Bruce obsessiveness, Bruce fans.))

  4. Rick Kane says

    Dear Mr Curtain

    I don’t think I have to tell you that your argument could do with some cred, with a capital C. And here it is. The cast of Mad Men singing RA’s philosophical ditty:


    I’m only dong this because I was impressed that you persisted with the argument for so long.


  5. Let’s see:

    Harvard Business Review

    now Mad Men


  6. Mickey Randall says

    T-Bone- I confess. It was I who referenced Tales from Topographical Oceans (in response to Litza’s piece). I’ve just endured about 20 minutes of it. It was horrid. Now for some Rick Astley, it will be much better.

  7. Yes, you mentioning it rings a bell, Mickey. Wow, what a record eh? Prog rock makes up a healthy quotient of my taste, so “Tales” is of course a record that has been well explored by me. I actually love the first 15 minutes of it on a level, but have always shaken my head over the next 100 minutes. The next 100, I dare say, have never rewarded anyone who had persevered with it. Indeed, it is as punishing a 100 minutes as there’s been in Rock. Just plain awful drivel. Still, when Yes were flying in the early 70’s they were magnificent.

  8. Mickey Randall says

    Roundabout and I’ve Seen All Good People both go very well T-Bone!

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Don’t tell anyone but Close To The Edge does it for me

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    But Rick Wakeman’s solo stuff drove me to punk

  11. They certainly do, Mickey … great prog

    Swish, no need to come out of the closet about Yes … leave that to Genesis fans.

  12. Stuff Rick Astley. I still take my guidance from Lutheran divinity – WWJD.
    Most nights when I am faced with a difficult choice I always think “What Would John Drink”?
    Pastor Harms always suggests a beer or a red in my mind, but perhaps that is wish fulfilment more than divine guidance.

  13. matt watson says

    I prefer to live by the mantra of Ronald Belford Scott (aka Bon Scott) – Out for satisfaction, any piece of action.
    What Would Bon Scott Do?
    Drink whiskey. Be charismatic. Root lots of women, then write poetic, wonderful lyrics and sing his balls off.
    If Bon Scott was an AFL player, he would’ve been a mix of Carey, Brereton, Lockett, Modra, Carmen and Jacko. He would’ve dominated the game. His autobiography would’ve been a best seller.
    On his last tour of England, it is rumoured that Bon Scott bedded 100 women – then he died.
    What would Bon Scott do? Get pissed, pick up, write about it and have fun.
    Hell ain’t a bad place to be…

  14. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    And if my favourite player of all time moved to the Alberton Football Netball League


    “What Would Wilbur Wilson Do (at) Devon Welshpool Won Wron Woodside”

  15. Rick Kane says

    Matt Watson, to quote They Might Be Giants, I hope I get old before I die. Whatever else Bon did, he didn’t stay the distance. (This is in no way a defence of Rick Astley by the way). (Nor is it a condemnation or dismissal of Bon Scott).

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