It began as one of his most exciting experiences of his college career. It ended up being one of his greatest regrets. His favorite professor had asked him to be an assistant on a quality control project. He was working for a company selling lead-based toothpaste tubes to one of the nation’s top consumer products companies.

The problem with the toothpaste tubes was that the wax coating that was supposed to cover the inside of the tube would not provide full coverage in some cases. The result was the lead would interact with the toothpaste and discolor it. When a consumer squirted toothpaste on a toothbrush, the result was a very unsavory looking paste to put in your mouth.

Ben Sampson was asked to do the number crunching, but also got to meet with the owners of the company every two weeks to present his findings along with his professor. The project was a success when a new approach was found to provide better wax coverage. Small pinhole gaps of wax were still present, but those weren’t considered a problem since they wouldn’t create any discoloration.

As the project was winding down, Ben happened to mention the project to a friend in chemistry. “Haven’t you heard of the dangerous impact of lead consumption on humans?” he asked. Ben had never heard of this but reasoned that small pinholes wouldn’t be a problem. He did some reading and found out that the issue with lead contamination possibilities was more serious than he thought.

Ben faced an issue of conscience. The project was the highlight of his resume, but if he raised a warning about the lead, the consequences from the company and his professor could be dire. Ben felt that he lacked the conviction to make the case that lead was a serious problem. He never raised the issue.

As the issue of lead poisoning became more prominent, the deaths of children from lead haunted him. Most likely lead in paint was the culprit but Ben could never fully convince himself. But one good result was that Ben developed a backbone and conviction to express concerns on issues he saw throughout his career.

Conviction requires courage about your beliefs. But it also requires the ability to describe your concerns/ideas in a way that can be accepted by others. Conviction is also about making moral choices and sticking with your values, no matter the consequences. What is most important is to think of how your lack of conviction might affect others.

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“A ‘NO’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘YES’ merely utters to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” – Mahatma Gandhi

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.