Today I read a tweet sharing a variation of the quote by the American basketball coach John Wooden, the original quote I believe is,
“Worry about your character, not your reputation. Your character is who you are, and your reputation is who people think you are”. — John Wooden
It sent me on a Saturday morning spiral reading many more great quotes by John Wooden and finding out more about him. It also made me reflect and got me thinking about how much time and effort I have spent on worrying about my reputation and not my character. It struck me how easy it is to focus on what others think and to base many of your decisions and actions around avoiding judgement and shame. Whilst reputation is an essential ingredient for gaining trust and acceptance I have come to realise that my focus has been the wrong way round. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
Out of fear, and concerns about my reputation I have stopped myself from doing things I love or know I should do. Sometimes I know that has been a good thing, self-preservation and all that, but other times it has only served to limit myself. A perfect example has been my long-term desire to write or to become published. For many years I have stitched together many excuses why not to, ranging from lack of confidence in my abilities, inability to spell (thank goodness I found Grammarly), a tendency to shy away and not fully understand the whole literary scene (believe it or not I have always struggled to read vast amounts of text), lack of time, fear of judgement etc.. the list goes on. Still, to this day, I have these the struggles but the truth is finding the Medium platform, learning to accept the above as excuses and ultimately shifting my mindset to just doing has all helped me start.
Along the way, I came up with strategies once I accepted that at the root of all my excuses was fear. A fear that was set by own expectations around my reputation. Contrary to popular opinion, fear is good. We just have to learn why we have our fears and work with them. Susan Jeffers I think, sums it up beautifully with her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
“If you really want to do something you will find a way. If you don’t you will find an excuse.” — Jim Rohn
So back to the original question, which do you serve; character or reputation? For me, the John Wooden quote reminded me that we should always strive to serve our character. Our everyday interactions leave a legacy that is etched in the thoughts and feelings of others. We should, therefore, be mindful and focus on our qualities and values in any given situation or environment. If we repeat this often enough we eventually build a reputation.
If you had to describe or asked a friend to describe 3 of your best and aspiring character traits, what would they be? For me, I hope they would be
3 Best: Honesty, Humility, Fairness
3 Aspiring: Perseverance, Creative, Confidence
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