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Fix Your Broken Windows

A 12-Step System for Promoting Ethical Affluence

What is ethical affluence?


  • Winning the race without ruining your name.

  • Reaching the top without throwing others over the cliff.

  • Achieving your dreams without selling your soul. 


Good intentions are a good start; but there’s a famous road paved with those. Small problems grow into large problems, and large problems lead to disaster. But if little problems swell into tsunamis, why can’t little fixes turn the tide?


Sometimes, you need a plan. Other times, all you need is a reminder to do what you already know you should be doing. Practice becomes habit, and good habits are the recipe for real, positive change.


These pages will introduce you to a practical system of ethics, communication, and personal responsibility that will transform any professional or social community into one defined by engagement, enthusiasm, and prosperity.

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The 12 Steps to Ethical Recovery

Cultures, businesses, families, and communities are like people.  The can become addicted to unhealthy habits that endanger their health, impair their productivity, and steal their quality of life.

By applying the principles of ethics, we can restore a vibrant culture and set ourselves back on the positive path to success and happiness.


  1. Admit that you have no control

  2. Acknowledge a power greater than yourself

  3. Commit yourself to a higher purpose

  4. Articulate your errors

  5. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory

  6. Look beyond yourself and enact all necessary steps to improve your character

  7. Listen to understand the ideas expressed by others

  8. Articulate back to others their ideas so they know they have been heard

  9. Recognize personal bias, emotion, and irrationality

  10. Reject double standards and intellectual inconsistency

  11. Through self-reflection and meditation, seek deeper awareness of purpose, knowledge of truth, and the wisdom to implement them in your life

  12. Be a model that inspires others


In 1982, George Kelling and James Q. Wilson published their soon-to-be-famous article “Broken Windows” in The Atlantic. The premise was simple. Small signs of neglect snowball into chronic and systemic decay.

That principle became the cornerstone of Rudy Giuliani’s anti-crime platform as mayor of New York City. Police adopted an aggressive approach toward loitering, panhandling, littering, graffiti, and fare-beating – to name a few. They also began their now-infamous stop-and-frisk policy. The city rapidly became one of the safest in America, and everyone celebrated success in the war on crime. 

However, as time passed, some began to question whether “broken windows” really deserved credit for New York’s turnaround.  Yet George Kelling continues to defend the soundness of his theory, arguing that over-reliance on law enforcement fueled community resentment that gradually undermined the program:


“Good broken windows policing seeks partners to address it: social workers, city code enforcers, business district improvement staff, teachers, medical personnel, clergy, and others. The goal is to reduce the level of disorder in public spaces so that citizens feel safe, are able to use them, and businesses thrive.”


Let’s leave the debate about New York City to sociologists and politicians. In terms of human psychology, the principle is solid. We all respond to subtle cues, be they visual, aural, or emotional.  Often, we aren’t conscious of our own reactions, or of what’s causing them.

Just as a coworker’s humming or pencil-tapping drives us mad, other nuances of our environment have a corrosive effect upon our attitudes, even if those nuances are not profoundly negative themselves. These are the “broken windows” that can create a tense – or toxic – workplace.

Just how bad is it?  According to estimates, lost productivity in the United States each year from employee disengagement adds up to between 450 and 550 billon dollars.[1]  And an estimated $359 billion is lost each year due to workplace conflict.[2]

But just imagine! If little vexations can disrupt our mood and our efficiency, isn’t it likely that little positive changes can similarly enhance and improve our outlook and our productivity?

Fixing a few broken windows can produce dramatic results. And it’s not even a new idea. Nearly 3000 years ago, King Solomon said, One who leaves a hole in his fence invites in a snake.

A little neglect can prove costly, even fatal. So don’t wait for disaster. Start fixing your windows now and see how many other problems start fixing themselves.

As George Kelling explains, success requires group participation, effort, and cooperation. Inspired by his model, I offer the following 12-step process of simple changes for any culture to improve its ethical health and thereby achieve increased affluence.


[1] Gallup estimate, 2012

[2] CCP Global Human Capital estimate, 2008

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