From Jim:

Have you ever thought about or tried to create your own reputation? That doesn’t make sense, does it? Reputation isn’t created. It’s attributed to you by the people who know and associate with you. That’s the whole point of a reputation: it’s based externally and arises from people who recognize something---a quality or a skill or a particular point of view---about you that they identify as you.

Your reputation is based on you but it is a component of your identity as defined by others.

Your reputation is problematic because it’s outside of your control. We all know about actors, politicians, athletes whose reputations are at a peak and in a flash the public abandons them for someone else. Granted, something occurs that motivates the public to turn their back, but a reputation is inherently dependent on the public and the public is fickle. In order to maintain your reputation over time you have to keep delivering whatever it is that those who are defining your reputation attribute to you.

If you rely on reputation as the measure of who you are you are constantly at the mercy of how you are perceived by others. They have their own agendas and are consciously or unconsciously interpreting your behavior through their own lenses---and it’s a fact that their lenses can and do distort what they see.

For example, sometimes people place value on others because what they see actually warrants being valued. The value they perceive is grounded in facts and can be justified objectively. However, often it’s not. It can be based in fantasy and is predominantly subjective. It can be based in transference, i.e. projecting their need to find value on someone and that person doesn’t really deserve it.

When Muhammad Ali was at the peak of his boxing career he was often asked for his opinion about political topics or situations. He may have had an opinion he’d thought through but he achieved prominence as a boxer not a politician. He was asked simply because of his public status---his reputation.

The fact is that you have no control over your reputation. Some may say that you have maximum control because your reputation is built on your behavior, and to some degree that is true. But what you can't control is how other people will perceive you, interpret your behavior, and for what conscious and/or unconscious purposes of their own. Some people may revere you for some aspect of who you are while, at the same time, others will trash you for the same thing. In a company someone’s reputation can be distorted regardless of how well they are doing and it can be praised no matter how poorly they me be performing.

Here’s another example. Let’s assume that you are brilliant and accomplished and because of these qualities you do not enjoy small talk. You can end up being seen as arrogant, haughty, stand-off-ish, egotistical, autocratic, imperious, presumptuous, vain, superior, and the myriad possibilities you can find in the thesaurus.

In writing this I by no means intend to depreciate the idea of a reputation. To have a good and strong reputation is a very powerful asset. It follows you like your name. And you must make wise and consistent choices to insure that you are being perceived and understood in the way that you want---reflecting who you know yourself to be and the quality of your performance. And that is up to you.

As I said at the outset, it doesn’t make sense to try to create your reputation. That’s in the hands of those who confer it on you. What you can do is decide to create the identity you want to be known for and then live it every day. That’s the foundation of your reputation and that is your brand.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous