Some of the things I write about will seem obvious to some, and to others it will be Earth-shattering. Bear with me if you already do a good job of this, but some out there need to be more cognizant of these things. I will share a few tips on things I think will really help you in this area.
First things first:
You need to operate in everyday life like you wear a uniform with your name on the back.
Think about the “Twitter Muscles” that so many people have when they can hide in supposed anonymity behind a fake name and social media. It is easy to speak your mind, run your mouth and blast people whenever you feel like it when you hide in cyberspace. As the greatest knockout artist the heavyweight division of Pro Boxing has ever seen one said: “People have forgotten what it’s like to get punched in the face for talking trash about someone.” And when Mike Tyson punches you in the face, you’d know it! Well, once you regained consciousness anyway.
Every day when you wake up, you should envision that the shirt you put on has your name and contact info on your back. Think of how differently you’d operate if the whole world knew where to find you to “follow up” on something you said or did. Most people do a good job with their ethics and integrity when someone is watching, the spot many fall short is when they think no one is looking. But this is the most critical part of the equation, what you do when no one is looking is the real measure of your integrity.
As always, I rarely write about something I haven’t done myself, and for a period of time I was really guilty of this. During my racquetball career, I was an entitled, self-absorbed asshole that thought because I was at the top of the game that I could do whatever I wanted. Some of this I believe to be learned behavior, watching other athletes like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and others add to the spectacle of the Pro Tennis match with terrible behavior that was unabated by officials. The tournament directors did not want to disappoint the crowd by defaulting one of these marquee players that fans purchased tickets to watch in person. Some came to watch McEnroe lose, others came to watch him win, but either way, tickets were sold and butts were in seats. There were plenty of good examples of being a true professional that I could have gravitated towards, but for whatever reason, the rebel in me identifies with those who also do whatever they want. Some of it was just me indulging my ego and not self-policing my behavior.
Eventually I caught on that this causes more problems than it solves, and no one cheers for you when you behave this way. But it took a while, and far too long at that. But, I am a work in progress, just like you…
Fast forward to recently and I had decided to pick a Twitter fight with a UFC fighter. As I eluded to above, if I was in the same room with him, I never ever would have said these things to his face, as he would have beaten the crap out of me. And rightfully so with some of the things I said to him under the protection of social media. He was clearly going through some tough times, and acting out in ways that were very self-destructive. I took it upon myself to point these things out, and call him out for it. I wasn’t alone, as many others decided to pile on as well. I’m not sure where I thought I had the moral high ground to stand on and cast judgement, but I did. Then one night I saw that he had gotten drunk at a restaurant and punched some random older gentlemen and probably really hurt the guy. Everyone took to the keyboards and let him have it; what a terrible person he was, he was spiraling out of control, might as well just go ahead and disappear. His responses shook me…
He sounded like he was getting really close to following some of the suggestions that people were giving him to “unalive” himself. That’s when I quite interacting with him. I forwarded stuff to Dana White and the UFC in hopes that they would reach out and provided some kind of assistance for him. He clearly needed it. I’m sure how things transpired, but in a few short weeks he was let go from the UFC and joined another MMA organization. I don’t know if he had a breakdown and recovered, or if he is still teetering on the edge of an implosion. But this was the last time I ever tweeted or commented in a negative way to him or anyone else on social media. This stuff is public record, forever, and I as well as everyone else should remember when using these platforms.
Life operates in the same manner. How you present yourself to the world and conduct yourself every day permeates the part the world around you. Your reputation can make or break you; if people are willing to vouch for you because they know you can be trusted, your life will be much easier and you will have more opportunities presented to you. If you are someone that has developed a reputation for being unreliable, controversial, or untrustworthy, you will be swimming upriver all the time. It takes a really long time to change public perception of you, trust me, I know. I basically had to wait out a generation of players cycling out of racquetball and have new people come into the game to move past my previous reputation in the game. As a coach, I never wanted my players to follow in my footsteps, and as hypocritical as it sounds, I was a hard-ass about on and off-court behavior. Some players knew they represented me as well as ASU, others needed a reminder. Everyone is different and needed to be coached accordingly.
In business, I have worked REALLY hard to have a reputation in a niche industry that would work to my advantage. Here’s a great example that just happened recently. Long story short, but there was a client who switched insurance brokers and the broker called me about switching them over. There was some confusion in the details and I didn’t understand that the client already worked with us. I gave my standard new client pricing and timelines, and expected that to be sufficient. The broker talked with the client, and then back to me, and this cycle continued via email for a couple of days. Finally the client picked up the phone and called me directly. She said a very complimentary thing to me, and something I absolutely value. Her statement was: “When I talked to the broker, she said you were being difficult and inflexible about this, and that just didn’t sound like the Darrin I have dealt with in the past.” Boom…there is reputation working to your advantage. The previous interactions “bought me” the benefit of the doubt and the comfort level to call me directly to resolve an issue. It made the entire situation much easier.
Whatever you do, be sure to operate like everything you do and say has your name stamped on it. This will keep you accountable to your actions and how you operate within the society you live in. You have to understand that every action you take, everything you say has impact on those around you. A positive act will subconsciously encourage others to do the same. A negative action will do the same, so in the grand scheme of things, your behavior is influencing the world around you. Which version of the world do you want to live in? That may seem a little too existential for you, but I do look at it that way. It takes the same amount of effort, but the “pay off” for helping others and being a good person is obvious.
It takes years to develop a good reputation, and constant work to maintain it. You need to be a person of your word, follow through on the things you say you are going to do, and be sure to do the right thing all the time. Your stellar reputation may allow you one do-over if you mess up, but that will depend on the nature of the infraction. But ALWAYS keep in mind this phrase:
It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, and five minutes to destroy it.
Conduct yourself accordingly. Develop a reputation that serves you well, and those around you also. Build a team of people who will step up and speak well of you; not just your friends who are willing to say whatever to defend you, but acquaintances that interact with you enough to understand that you are trustworthy and have integrity. When THOSE people are in your corner, then you are really getting somewhere.