I’ve built my career on a set of principles to which I hold myself 100% accountable. These tenets are how I conduct my professional life, and in large part, how I conduct my personal relationships, too. Here are the things most important to me:

Be trustworthy, reliable, and dependable.

This is the “ultimate triumvirate”. In my opinion, these three traits are the most important characteristics you can have. Without them, you cannot have long-term success. They can make you or break you. Trust is built over a lifetime, but it can be destroyed in an instant. Never break the trust of your customer, employee, employer, colleague, spouse, child. Ever.

Take the high road.

In any and all situations, do the right thing. The angrier you are, the more important it is to not succumb to your emotions. Over the years, I have fallen on the sword countless times. I have taken the blame for situations that were never my fault. Of course, there is a difference between being a sucker and carefully considering what the high road is. For example, if someone really pisses you off, breathe. Don’t yell. Don’t rant. Don’t use ALL CAPS in an email. In fact, walk away. Consider whether or not the person and the situation warrant the amount of energy you are giving. Keep your energy for important things. And never ever display anger in an email. The email will last far longer than your chagrin.

Consider what is fair.

Be as objective as possible. Look at all sides of a situation. You are not always right (as hard as it may be to recognize). Being defensive never works. I have learned that the more fair I am, the more fair those around me tend to be in return.


Listening is one of the most important relationship skills you can master. Do you ever find yourself planning your next point, sentence, or question while your conversational partner is speaking? You can completely miss what the person is saying because you are so busy thinking about “your turn” to speak. Being present in the moment is a critical capability to master. The more you listen, the more the other person will say. I can’t think of a better way to build a relationship.

Provide value.

In a business setting, the most valuable thing a person can give you is their time. When someone gives you their time, you must provide value in return. Grasp every moment as an opportunity to be valuable to someone else. The same is true for delivering a service. When you work for someone, provide them with value. Otherwise, they will find someone else next time.

I’d love to hear about your guiding principles. I’m sure you have some that I can incorporate into my life, too.

Val Swisher
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