The Difference Between Character and Reputation.
In the buzzy world of social media, reputation matters. A lot! Your personal or company reputation shows up before you do, as the cosmic bellhop delivers it to others by way of Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin (Twitter is still up in the air).
While I appreciate the reputation we’ve been building and how our mighty marketing team is spreading the word to match our upcoming growth in the online education world and with campuses in Santa Fe, NM, I also get tired of all the preening and transactional goals of building a reputation.
Reputation is an external asset, one that people often try to manipulate. A reputation may buy you riches but won’t buy you virtue.
On the other hand, character is an internal asset. Character is your ability (and willingness) to develop the wisdom to know what to do, when to act, and how to act, the courage and fortitude to overcome fear so that you are able to act appropriately, and the temperance to remain balanced in all aspects of life. Your character may incorporate the four Stoic virtues of wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.
Put still another way, character is who you are. Reputation is who people think you are. If you have a good reputation, it means that people perceive you have good character. That does not mean, however, that you actually do have good character. The world is full of people skilled at giving off the impression that they are virtuous. And virtue-signaling is one of my least favorite kinds of reputation-building techniques.
Like so much in life, there’s an ideal alchemy between character and reputation in the commercial world. They are meant to be symbiotic. Character has tremendous long-term value, while reputation can create short-term gains. The risk we take in quickly growing a business is that we become too reliant on pushing reputation to solve short-term needs, and, in so doing, we potentially mess with our character.
In the end, I value character more than I do reputation. Character is absolutely within my control, while reputation is the opinion of others, which is out of my direct control. Character also stands the test of time.
As you act more and more in the world, the number of opportunities for people to evaluate your character (and hence change your reputation in their minds) increases. So, I do my best to show up with the character of a role model every day, even when I feel like a complete bastard.