The Value Of A Good Reputation

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A reputation is an animal designed by committee: you give birth to it, but the way it develops depends on the actions of others. Your reputation lives a very real existence apart from you, representing the collective mental construct everyone but you shares about you, a construct based partially on your own actions but also on the perceptions others have about others’ perceptions of your actions. We only ever have influence over our reputation—never control—as is the case with all things external to us, but it remains one of our most precious assets (far more important than any one job, house, car, or even, some would argue, money). Just why it’s so important and how to positively influence it is the subject of this post.


Our reputation represents the way others look at us and as such is at once critically important and utterly trivial. Utterly trivial because if we have a healthy self-esteem we won’t need others to think well of us (though many of course do struggle with this and often find their sense of value vulnerable to the opinions of others—especially their perception of the collective opinions of others). Critically important, however, because even those of us with resilient self-esteem live in a great social network and need a good reputation for practical purposes—friendship and income chief among them. It’s hard to have friends if people think you’re mean-spirited and hard to make a living in any capacity if people think you’re lazy, unreliable, or dishonest.

Our reputation is a tool, then—not, hopefully, for creating or maintaining our self-esteem but for practical navigation through daily life, a good one smoothing out the journey somewhat, a bad one causing doors to slam in our face and testing our confidence in ourselves.


In all things, it’s harder to build than to destroy. Building a good reputation requires effort, patience, and time. Destroying a good reputation only requires a single moment’s misstep. The secret to building a good reputation? Become a person who deserves one. Take consistent action that embodies the characteristics you want others to associate with you. Don’t just mouth the platitudes of hard work, attention to detail, loyalty, and drive—live them.  n fact, don’t mouth them at all. Let others discover them in you.

A reputation is a fragile thing. It requires constant feeding. Consistency is crucial. If you live up to your reputation 99% of the time but fail to do so 1% of the time, you risk disproportionate damage if the person you let down is highly influential in your network. A good reputation shouldn’t be an end in itself but rather a natural outgrowth of your striving to be the person you most want to be.

  1. You can’t stop others from maligning you, but a good reputation can come to your rescue when other members of your network rise to your defense without your even knowing it. We are, in fact, all caretakers of one another’s reputations. In a society in which simply being accused is enough to render a conviction in the court of public opinion, we would all do well to presume not only innocence but goodness until facts prove otherwise. We all need to be kinder to and gentler with one another.
  2. A good reputation provides you a target at which to keep aiming. Sometimes you may not feel you deserve your reputation, that it’s better than you are. Rather than lament your weaknesses, let your good reputation serve as motivation for you to try to improve yourself.
  3. A good reputation represents a great marketing strategy. When I find a service provider of any kind whose performance outshines their competition, they become like gold to me. I use them repeatedly, recommend them enthusiastically to others, and don’t begrudge paying them what they’re worth.
  4. A good reputation inspires others. We all need positive role models, even the best and brightest among us.

Some may think reputation doesn’t matter or shouldn’t matter, that we should all focus on doing our best, on being our best, and let others think what they may. Certainly, I agree we should never seek to manipulate what others think about us (it never works in the long run anyway), but to ignore the practical importance of a good reputation cheats us of many opportunities we might otherwise enjoy. Caring about our reputation doesn’t mean we need others to like us. It means recognizing that as human beings we often can’t help judging a book by its cover and that as long as the book itself is good there’s nothing wrong with caring about having an attractive cover around it.

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  • Thanks for yet another thoughtful post. While I agree with what you’ve said, I think that social media—perhaps because of the anonymity it allows—has increased people’s willingness to say very negative things about others, in response to their postings. I find this sad. Any ideas about how to address this?

    Jean: I have no brilliant answers. People are clearly willing to say things online anonymously (and sometimes not anonymously) that they’d never say to someone in person. Being connected to one another via electronic social media seems to have reduced the sense of responsibility we feel to be decent to one another. I agree that it’s sad.


  • A good reputation is where money cannot buy. You built it up slowly.

  • And now, of course, a good part of our reputation rests on what the Internet shows about us, or even our own blogs. I once got in terrible trouble for something I posted on my very candid blog. However, though I was deservedly chastened and ashamed of myself at the time, karma proved the winner & what happened turned out for the best, seven-fold! How bout that Life of the Buddha program on PBS? Awesome!

    Ruth: Your story reminds me how careful we need to be when posting anything online. Missed the PBS program. I’ll have to check it out…online.


  • Iago:

    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
    ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed.

    Shakespeare said it long ago.

  • Hey Alex,
    What a great way to start my day! Thank you for sharing. I try on a daily basis to do some extra “deed” for someone…an act of kindness….picking up garbage that’s not mine…or a kind word. I never really thought about it influencing my reputation, it just made me feel good. This has been a good reminder because I haven’t been outside yet. Have a great day!


  • Reminds me of the Socrates quote: “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”

  • I am simply grateful that I have outlived the poor reputation I created in my frivolous youth.

    I have heard, “What people say about me is none of my business.” What people know about me is my business. I, through my actions, create my own reputation; this article makes that so clear. Wonderful!

  • This was great, Alex, and gave me so much food for thought.

    I live in a world were I believe there are NO accidents and I find myself spending a lot of time trying to figure out why seemingly random people have crossed my path—what are they here to show me? But until I read this I hadn’t turned the table and considered “letting others discover themselves in me.”

    Thanks for sharing that!

  • Reputation is the general opinion of the public toward a person, a group of people, or an organization.

  • What can I do if I wanted to gain back my loved one’s good reputation that I have ruined?