A decade or more ago I learned the hard way on the results of a negative reputation. I was in my early 20s and not only was I throwing myself into the deep end of the pool as it related to my business aspirations – I truly felt invincible.

This was unfortunately compounded with a bevy of bad decisions. Being young and naive, I was foolish in how I conducted myself, my business, my clients and my colleagues and friends. Perhaps you may dismiss it as we were all young and stupid at one point. However, as a result we all must live with the consequences of the decisions we made.

Someone much smarter than me said something that resonated when they said that your brand is what people say about you, not to your face, but after you leave the room.

It can be a bit jarring to consider that; what are your friends, colleagues, competitors or clients saying about you after you leave? It does not take long from those sentiments to spread. You reputation creates biases in people’s minds before you would even have the opportunity to meet them. With the number of bridges I torched in my youth; it was not long before I had a reputation that preceded me – which was a very sobering rock bottom. I had to make a conscious commitment to rebuild it and have spent more than a decade doing so. In that time I’ve continued to make mistakes or have lapses in good judgement but the purposeful intention of striving to cultivate a good reputation has been there.

Over the last dozen years, I’ve learned the following:

ONE: Your brand and subsequent reputation must come from a place of being authentic and genuine. A wolf cannot truly pass as a sheep – much like  a sheep cannot feign being a wolf over time.

TWO: Everything is achieved by earning it, not by demanding it. Whether it is good or bad, we earn our reputation, respect or demise. Thus our energy and attention should be focussed on earning without so much as even asking.

THREE: Everything is leased not owned. A good brand or reputation will not hold up overtime unless it is constantly re-earned. We rent it, we rent success, we rent favorable reviews. We must strive for the privilege of renewing the lease.

As you can tell, this is not a short game – but a long haul. It is about making the right choices and decisions on what will define and represent you. Mistakes will be made. I’m confident in accepting that I will make more myself. Yet our visions must remain focussed on what we hope to earn. It matters little what we say about ourselves. It is about what others say about us.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto