ESSAYS ON Reputation
Written by Rick Archer, July 2007
reputation, reputation! Oh,
I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of
myself, and what remains is bestial."
- William Shakespeare
good reputation is more valuable than money."
- Publius Syrus
see my reputation is at stake, My
fame is shrewdly gored."
speaking to Ulysses after being fatally wounded by Paris at
the gates of Troy. Once considered invincible,
Achilles acknowledges his own mortality.
Shakespeare (1564–1616), British dramatist, poet. Achilles,
in Troilus and Cressida, act 3, sc. 3, l. 227.
"Character is like a tree and
Reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of
it; the tree is the real thing."
"The great difficulty is first to
win a reputation; the next to keep it while you live; and
the next to preserve it after you die, when affection and
interest are over, and nothing but sterling excellence can
preserve your name. Never suffer youth to be an excuse for
inadequacy, nor age and fame to be an excuse for indolence."
This article concerns Reputation. Reputation
is the overall quality or character as seen or judged
by people in general. It concerns
the recognition by other people of some
characteristic or ability, such as being
clever, clumsy, honest or dishonest. Reputation
concerns a place in public esteem,
i.e. how a person is regarded.
deals with many different aspects of our lives. We all wonder about
how people perceive us.
Do people think I have a good name
or a bad name?
Do people think I am honest or dishonest?
Do people think I cheat at cards?
Do people trust me?
Do my actions support my words?
Do people think they can count on me?
Of course we wonder how people view our talent.
Am I any good at my job?
Is my word good or do people think I stretch things a bit?
Do people think I play fair or do they think I cut corners?
Does my boss think I will meet my deadline?
Do I honor my spoken rules of conduct or do I disregard them
Recently I came across a phenomenal article written by
Thomas Friedman, the 3-time Pulitzer winner who writes for
the New York Times. Basing his article on a book
titled How by Dov Seidman,
Mr. Friedman postulates that never before in history has the
potential for damaging our Reputation been greater.
Please read the article.
By Thomas Friedman
New York Times
The whole world is watching, so
you best get your 'hows' right
Three years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston's Logan
airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I
approached the cash register, a woman coming form another
direction got there just behind me - or
so I thought.
put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud
voice: "Excuse me, I was here first!"
And then she fixed me
with a piercing stare that said: "I know who you are."
said I was very sorry, but I was clearly here first.
If that happened today, I would have had a very different
reaction. I would have said: "Miss, I'm so sorry, I am
entirely in the wrong. Please go ahead. And can I
magazines for you? May I buy your lunch?
Can I shine your
Why would I say this?
Because I'd be thinking there is some chance this woman
has a blog or a camera in her cell phone and could, if she
so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter -
entirely from her perspective - and my utterly rude,
boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!
When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry,
everyone becomes a potential publisher. When everyone has a
cell phone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo.
When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is a
When everyone is publisher, paparazzo
or filmmaker, everyone else becomes a potential public
figure. We must get accustomed to the thought that we are
all public figures now.
The blogosphere has made the global
discussion so much richer - and each of us so much more
The implications of all this are the subject of a new book
by Dov Seidman, founder and CEO of LRN, a business ethics
company. His book is simply called How.
simple thesis is that in this transparent world "how" you
live your life and "how" you conduct your business matters
more than ever. Today so many people can now see into what
you do and go tell so many other people about it on their own
without any editor or watchdog. To win now, Seidman argues,
have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.
Seidman writes: "For young
people, this means understanding
that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so
much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write
will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased.
My generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups
appeared on our first job resumes, which we got to write.
For the current young generation, much of what they say, do
or write will be persevered on-line forever. The moment
employers finish reading an attractive resume, they will
Google the person next."
"The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second
chances harder to come by," writes Seidman. "In the
Information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can
leave nothing behind and you have nowhere to hide your
skeletons. Your past is your present."
So the only way to
get ahead in life will be by getting your "hows" right.
Ditto in business. Companies that get their 'hows' wrong
won't be able to just hire a PR firm to clean up the mess by
taking a couple of reporters to lunch - not when everyone is
a reporter and can talk back and be heard globally.
But this also creates opportunities. Today "what" you make
is quickly copied and sold by everyone. But "how" you engage
your customers, "how" you keep your promises, and "how" you
collaborate with partners - that's not so easy to copy, and
that is where companies can now really differentiate
"When it comes to human conduct there is tremendous
variation, and where a broad spectrum of variation exists,
opportunity exists," writes Seidman. "The tapestry of human
behavior is so varied, so rich and so global that it
presents a rare opportunity, the opportunity to outbehave
How can you out-behave your competition? Here
are three examples.
In Michigan, Seidman writes, one hospital taught its doctors
to apologize when they make mistakes. The hospital
dramatically cut their malpractice claims. In Texas, a large
auto dealership allowed every mechanic to spend freely
whatever company money was necessary to do the job right.
They saw their costs actually decline while customer
satisfaction improved. A New York street doughnut-seller
trusted his customers to make their own change. In the
process, he found could serve more people faster and build
the loyalty that kept them coming back.
"We do not live in glass houses (houses have walls); we live
on glass microscope slides… visible and exposed to all,"
Seidman continues. So whether you are selling cars or
newspapers (or just buying a paper at a stand), get your 'hows'
right - How you build trust, How you collaborate, how you
lead, and how you say you're sorry. More people than every
will know about it when you do - or don't.
Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times.
is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.
This article is
reprinted from the June 27, 2007, issue of the
Houston Chronicle. I assume it
originally appeared in the NY Times.
you fail to learn the first time becomes a Lesson you are
doomed to Repeat
I am about to
take you on a 3 Chapter Adventure known as the
incidents are examples drawn from my own dance career that
deal with "Reputation".
This is the story of how my first wife brutally
slapped me three times in public. Although no one is
ever blameless, in my opinion I had done next to nothing to
deserve this. Nevertheless through "Spin" - a careful
manipulation of the facts - plus a glaring absence of
communication on my part, this incident backfired on me to
become my fault. I fell into a dark depression.
I had just learned one the hardest lessons of my entire
the story of how my second wife and I allowed a rival dance
studio steal our once-dominant position as the best Swing
Dance Studio in Houston right out from under our noses.
Our failure to properly respond to a Smear Campaign led
directly to our downfall.
I had just learned one the hardest lessons of my entire
This is the story of how I
threw a horrible temper tantrum at the dance studio.
I screamed at two students demanding a Refund
and threw hundreds of dollar bills on the floor.
I was completely out of
line. The next morning I awoke to find the students had sent
a poison pen version of the story
flying across the Internet. They
were going to take down my entire Western program for
Yet despite my terrible behavior,
miraculously I managed to rescue myself from this
potential disaster to emerge
without a scratch.
So how did I do that? I paid attention to the lessons
learned from my previous two adventures and used my
experience to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.
With my Houdini-like
escape from the deadly email, I had begun my Metamorphosis
into a person who not only understands the need to stand up
for his Reputation, but one who does it skillfully.
In the summer of 2007 I visited an active volcano site in
Hawaii. I could not understand why the guides forced
us to walk single file and insisted on walking beside us to
make sure we cooperated. When we got to the active
lava flow, I had my answer - the new hot lava is almost
identical in appearance to the hardened lava. We
all know about the Red Lava from
and other volcano movies, but this kind of lava was a
deadly, highly camoflouged assassin I knew nothing about.
guides, any of us could easily have lost a foot before we
ever knew what happened. The guides protected us.
I am offering to be your guide in the Court of Public
Opinion. I have a valuable contribution to share with the
rest of you...
A chance for
you to avoid risking your own Reputation by learning from
SOMEONE ELSE'S MISTAKES.
You might just
save your Reputation from going through a lava field some
Perception is Reality
In Politics, it doesn't matter what the truth is. It
just matters what people believe the truth is.
Now we turn our
attention to the Public Relations concept known as
In public relations, Spin
is term signifying a heavily biased portrayal of an
event or situation in one's own favor.
involves a selective presentation of the facts and
quotes that support one's position combined with the
sly omission of any facts that "fail" to support
Spin is the
story of the most bitter PR lesson life has ever
handed me. I found out first-hand why you
always have to aggressively present your side of the
story any time there is an ugly public incident.
are my own personal experiences.
is a more general story
involving the Reputation of my dance studio.
Google are stories
about other people whose experiences illustrate
issues involving 'Reputation'.
is the polished, intelligent beautiful
leader of the famous Lakewood Church here in
Houston. One day in 2005 around
Christmas time, Ms. Osteen is said to have
lost her temper while boarding an airplane
on a vacation flight to Colorado.
The Curious Christmas Calamity of Victoria
Schamenek was just trying to help. He
had an idea for a new Salsa Crash Course
here at SSQQ. In the middle of his
class, someone began to videotape.
Alex let him continue. Big Mistake.
No Good Deed goes Unpunished
new in town and wanted to teach a Samba
class. The problem was that she was
incredibly busy and had a little trouble
adapting the the SSQQ class format. So
she started teaching classes whenever she
had some free time. That wasn't a very
The Strange Saga of the Mysterious Samba
- Lots of
people have been reading my stories about
Reputation and Google. So now they
email me right and left to get their names
removed from the SSQQ website before it is
too late and everyone finds out the truth.
Zephyr the Belly Dancer, Joye the Same Sex
Dancer, and Ted the Girl Chaser