Honor: The Secret Ingredient of the Successful Man


Honor is not a definition to be understood. Honor is a code of living defined by experience. Honor cannot just be a thought, it has to be expressed and practiced. It’s not like The Secret where somehow your thoughts are converted into molecules and sent out into the universe; it’s dead in the water if it’s not utilized. Honor does not exist without action.

We throw “honor” around like we know what it means, but in reality, if you’re like me, it’s just one of those fancy words from folklore. “You should honor and respect your elders.” Okay.

We all know honor. We think it, but let pride get in the way; to the point we don’t recognize people closest to us.

It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.-Aeschylus

Honor stirs in your gut, it’s a spiritual substance that revolts at being kept. It’s most often passed on from your family, or learned from a culture.

This past week I got a good dose of the meaning of honor from a doctor in Glendale, CA. Dr. David Bostanjian was a successful surgeon in Armenia, and came to the United States like many of his brothers and sisters because of political instability. When he arrived in America, his credentials and his experience meant nothing. He had to start from scratch. 

He enrolled back into school just to get back what he had. He was 42, and was rejected by every medical residency program because he was competing with students fresh out of medical school. How would he be able to keep up with the twenty-somethings? Based on a professor’s recommendation, he dropped everything to go to Chattanooga, TN. He was accepted but warned he was on a 3 month probation, and if there was one complaint, he would be out of the program. He went from being top dog in Armenia, to obeying and taking orders from students, assistants and nurses.

He had zero money and was at the mercy of residents 15 years younger than him, but he told me he honored them because they had completed the first year, a path he had not taken. Did you catch that? Even with years of experience in surgery, he humbled himself to someone younger because they completed an experience he had never done. Honor can be given at any age and to any age.

One night he went out for drinks with the senior and chief residents. Honor is lavished through sacrifice. Despite having no money, he picked up the $250 bar tab because he wanted to honor them. Today, he’ll tell you it was worth every penny. Honor is an action, but the heart behind it matters most.

Bottom line is, honor is applied. How can you practically apply honor to your life?

1. Obey

On a practical level, honor can simply mean obeying your parents. How can obedience be a benefit? The guy who’s refined the skill growing up will have a leg up in the marketplace because obeying parents leads to honoring and obeying employers.

2. Humble

Toughest one for us guys. For years I couldn’t keep my mouth shut because I always had to be right. Honor can mean just shutting up and listening. I’m sure there were moments Dr. Bostanjian wanted to say he was right because he already practiced years as a surgeon, but he restrained himself and kept his mouth shut.  Sometimes honoring might mean listening and being open even when you are sure you’re 100% right.

3. Sacrifice

The Greek word for honor is timé, which could mean “price paid” or “value.” When Dr. Bostanjian picked up the bar tab, he was making a sacrifice. He paid a price to honor the seniority he respected. Honoring someone is going above and beyond, and if you really respect someone, it means giving outside your comfort zone.

4. Compliment

Honor isn’t kissing butt, but it is giving an authentic encouragement. Once again it, it can be given at any age and to any age. Have you complimented your manager or boss lately?

Needless to say, Dr. Bostanjian has been extremely successful. The secret ingredient to his success? Honor. Even today, it’s easy to note the amount of respect his staff, his patients, and his colleagues have towards him. He can call any of his chief residents from Chattanooga, TN and they will pick up at any time.

Honor is simply the morality of superior men. –H. L. Mencken

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9 Responses to Honor: The Secret Ingredient of the Successful Man

  1. Dan April 2, 2014 at 5:09 am #

    Well, if no one else is gong to comment, I guess I will. This is a great article! You the man Kris! Yayy!! 😛

    • Dan April 2, 2014 at 5:10 am #


    • Kris Wolfe April 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

      Haha, thanks Dan!! Comments make my day! It’s a side effect of blogging I think.

  2. Jarid April 2, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Honor seems to be the backbone of humility in my experience. Good article man, shoot me an email sometime!

  3. Christian April 4, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Just a short point:

    According to wikipedia
    Honour (also honor in American English; from the Latin word honor) is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation. Accordingly, individuals (or corporate bodies) are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions with a specific code of honour, and the moral code of the society at large.

    So just because somebody follows a certain code of honour doesn’t mean they are a good person. Certainly a mafia godfather might be considered a man of honour by the other members of the organisation. But he / she (yes there are female godfathers) would still a ruthless criminal.

    So what code of honour are we talking about?

    • Kris Wolfe April 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

      Christian!!!! It’s really good to hear from you. It’s been awhile. You bring up a good discussion. I see your point. Within the Westborough Baptist Church, protestors are considered honorable within their community. Slave traders were probably considered honorable within the context of slave trading. But, how do these codes of honor measure up to the universal code of morality?

      • Christian April 6, 2014 at 11:50 pm #


        what universal code of morality are you talking about? The stuff that is imprinted in our genes? Because that stuff is not universal, as the existence of psychopaths clearly shows.

        And if there is a universal code: Where does it come from? Where can we study it? Does it have a specific purpose or is it arbitrary? Is there some leeway when following it, or does it demand absolute obedience like the Japanese giri?

        • Kris Wolfe April 8, 2014 at 1:37 am #

          There is a universal code of morality. Lying, cheating, murdering, stealing, etc. are universally unacceptable across most religions and societies. So even though killing may be acceptable and honorable within a mafia organization, it’s not honorable to society at large.

          • Christian April 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm #


            I am not disputing that there certain ethical rules that common among most humans, regardless of cultural background. I am merely saying that those are not universal in the sense that they are shared by all humans, only by the vast majority of us.

            Second even if there is a universal moral code we still haven’t explored
            – its origin (a specific religious text? If so, which one? Or evolution by natural selection for behaviours that would enhance reproductive chances?),
            – existing or non-existing purpose (Is there a purpose? If yes, what is it?),
            – the possibility or desirability to obey it (Can humans fulfill it under any circumstances? If yes, is it desirable to do so?) and,
            – its content (What is permissible? And under what conditions?).

            Considering the last two points (ability and desirability to follow) for example:
            While killing or lying are generally thought of as immoral actions, it may well be perfectly moral to do so under certain circumstances. Examples would be:
            – Killing somebody to end an immediate danger to life of oneself or a third person (Something police officers have done many times in the past, and will unfortunately have to do in the future.).
            – Lying to an authority figure to protect oneself or a third person from physical harm or death (The classic dilemma here is lying to the German Gestapo or SS in 1943 when they ask you: “Are you hiding Jews? Do you know anybody who is hiding Jews?”. That is not a hypothetical, my grandmother actually knew neighbours who hid a jewish boy in the 1940ies.)

            Just sayin.

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