Last week, I had reflections and even spoke about character in three engagements. I guess it was a firm reminder that character is that one thing that anchors everything that happens in anyone’s life and in any society. I am tempted to share a few snippets on this interesting subject. Character is this answer you might give to very many questions without feeling over repetitive.
How come some people have their words taken for the truth while others, however much they insist, will have no one believing them? How come some leaders get loyal followers and get things done yet others, even with enticements of all sorts, will struggle to get things done through the few who follow them? What makes people in senior positions come down overnight? What makes most celebrities unable to hold on to their celebrity status for long? The questions can go on and on, but the sufficient answer might as well be one – character.
Character is one of those words that are common but which when tasked to define, one scratches his/her head. It is the sum total of your habits; those traits that you have, together with the small things that you keep doing every other day. Character is the mental and moral features distinctive to an individual. This implies that each of us has got character; the difference is whether it is good or bad. Character in most many cases has been used to connote good character. In that light, character is doing the right thing because it is right to do the right thing. Character is who you truly are.
Reputation is what you want the world to think you are, but character is what you really are. It is Abraham Lincoln who says that reputation is the shadow while character is the tree. This implies that anyone who is not happy with the shape of the shadow should work on the shape of the tree. Just like a tree grows over time, character too develops over time. Most people are not patient enough to work on their character and so they struggle to influence the appearance of the shadow. Little do they remember that when the light dims, the tree remains while the shadow dies with the dimming of the light.
You may walk into a company and you leave wondering how some people in that company manage to retain their job and how others manage to get promoted. What most of them have done is to work on their shadow, the reputation. They have succeeded in making management believe that they are so good to be done away with. Their magic is simple, they have tampered with the source of light (it is the only way one can tamper with the length of a shadow). If they work for a company that is sales oriented, such people will do anything to bring in huge sales. That way, they sway the focus of the company management from their character to their performance. However, that lasts for as long as the light has not dimmed on them. Are you a victim of growing your world image while starving your character?
It is a tragedy to struggle growing your reputation while your character remains stunted. Ideally, reputation goes where character goes and never the other way round. Struggling to make the world think you are a good person while suppressing your character only works in the short run. Eventually, your character will show up to betray your well-built reputation. You must have seen senior people in organizations coming down in a twinkle of an eye. Their ambitions took them to where their character was not able to hold them. A friend in senior management lost his job when he was found syphoning fuel from the company car to his own car! Hilarious as this may sound, such cases are many. That happens when your character comes to ask, “Why did you leave me behind?” John Wooden says, “While ability may get you to the top, only character will keep you there.”
Relationships have continued to collapse on the account of character. It is not that people have changed overnight; rather, their character has revealed itself. People will not cheat on their spouses not because they love them so much, but because their character guides them so. Businesses, great leaders and celebrities have collapsed on the account of character simply because people jumped the gun. People duped the world into believing they were worth their salt using artificial reputation. Eventually when character came knocking, they got exposed and their world came to a standstill.
I have good news, character is progressive. It can be built and developed over time; it is not cast in stone. To heal this country of corruption, tribalism and all other vices, you and I have to invest in our character. Begin working on your character today and allow your reputation to grow at the same pace with it. That way, your growth will be sustainable. Tune your thoughts in the positive direction by surrounding yourself with people and books that advocate positivity and possibility. Invest in a good value system because your values guide your actions. Do not compromise on good values no matter the temptation. Let your good deeds define you and shape your character. While men of genius will be admired, men of wealth envied and men of power feared, only men of character will be trusted. Hold your character dearly because with it YOU CAN DO BETTER!
Personal & Business Devt Coach, Author