Character vs Reputation

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden



The new year ushers, well, ‘new’ness.  I think everyone imagines they’re starting fresh, clean, over.  What happened last year is so last year.  I find myself consulting with entrepreneurs and clients who want to employ this technique of starting over.  I think it’s great in a way, and short-sighted in another way.  The past is very important.  The past when analyzed through a transparent lens is an excellent teacher.  You may find that the things that went wrong, or the things you wanted and didn’t get were entirely as a result of your choices or your behavior.  This is worth examining.  Starting fresh with a positive attitude is key.  However, I encourage my friends and colleagues to reflect on where they were a year ago, five years ago, even ten years ago.  What has evolved?  What needs to evolve now?

Correspondingly, I have had many conversations with business colleagues about reputation.  There’s a fast growing sector on-line of services that manage your reputation.  You have your which provides monitoring of yourself as a brand and develops content to ‘present’ you in a certain light.  There are lawyers that are turning reputation sheriffs – out to protect their clients’ against defamatory posts about them or their companies.  Indeed, protecting one’s reputation has to be one of the big stories of 2011 and I think will be an even bigger story in 2012.  On deck in Washington is a bill that indirectly has a lot to do with reputation management, it’s called SOPA or Stop Online Piracy Act.  The bill aims to make it difficult for people to steal copyrighted material.  Moreover it holds accountable the 3rd party Web sites like Google, YouTube, Vimeo, etc, that host this copyrighted material.  It’s been a very popular topic the last few days as companies sprint to boycott the bill while others lobby senators to uphold and pass it.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

So what does SOPA have to do with reputation.  Well, as any of my loyal readers have seen, I’ve been very encouraging to everyone that they should “to protect your name” as it is far too easy for just about anyone to defame you without recourse.  I believe this is in the process of changing independent of SOPA and other legislation.  Even so, I wonder if we should all elevate a bit to a higher consciousness.

What I mean here is that “protecting your name” is tantamount to worrying about your reputation.  Imagine if we put the same energy into working on our character each and every day.  Instead of hiring firms like or demanding controls on how defamatory content is published on-line, it may simply be enough to do your thing and smile at the haters as you walk on by.  This assumes that “doing your thing” means you’ll act ethically and with integrity.

And so, that is the point of this post.  Anyone can be an entrepreneur, I really believe this.  And, anyone willing to work hard and innovate can be successful.  It is very unlikely you’ll be successful and continue to be successful without character.  You could have the best reputation on earth and with a maligned character, you’ll find yourself hitting roadblocks in real life and in relationship with yourself.  On the other hand, you can let people say what they want, post what they want, and continue to check yourself and your integrity and chances are you’ll be just fine.

In my case, I find that surrounding myself with people that expect me to live by a high standard and perform at a high level is like “coaching” for my character.  Fitting as Mr. John Wooden who began this post is arguably one of the best coaches of all time.

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