your signature legacy: reputation

03/12/2011

by carolyn mathews

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Henry Ford has a reputation that endures. Known for revolutionizing manufacturing and business acumen, he also is known for being a pacifist for much of his life. Prior to his death, his reputation was marred by scandal associated with anti-Semitic views published in a newspaper he owned. However, it is his reputation for innovation for which he is best known during the past 100 years. Henry Ford’s life illustrates the importance of reputation as an important component of creating your Signature Legacy.

Your Signature Legacy is not only something amassed to be left behind; it is something you author by how you live. Previously, I have described the “3Rs” in creating your Signature Legacy: Raison D’être, Retirement Planning, and Reputation. So far, I have written about the first two Rs, finding your purpose and planning your retirement well-being. I wrote that finding your life’s purpose can “foster the life and reputation for which you want to be known.” Planning for your retirement has been shown to contribute to greater overall well-being. To plan for overall well-being, I ask clients to plan for the social, health, and community aspects of their post-career lives, in addition to the financial aspects.

Developing your reputation can be a tricky topic to discuss. We all have heard it takes years to build a reputation and a moment to destroy it. This can be a daunting thought, and for most of us, an over-statement. Many readers may argue one’s character is more important than one’s reputation. Others may suggest we have little control over what others think about us. I believe both of these positions to be true. I also believe living a life that reflects our values provides an indication of our character and leaves fewer opportunities for ridicule of our legacy. To illustrate this, let’s consider Bill Clinton. As our president, he was involved in personal events that certainly compromised his reputation, and I think it’s fair to say his actions were not aligned with his values. Since then, however, he has twice served as a United Nations special envoy during regional tragedies, started the Clinton Global Initiative (a philanthropic organization that addresses specific global issues) and authored several books. While he will always be known for his indiscretion, I suggest he lives his legacy in a way that reflects his character of service, curiosity, and caring for others.

To develop your reputation, ask the simple question, “How do I want to be known by family members, friends, colleagues, and others I care about?” One’s reputation is closely linked to the other two Rs: raison d’être (finding our purpose) and retirement planning (caring for our well-being). Finding our purpose, fed by our personal strengths and values, provides the roadmap for our reputation. Acting on that purpose is part of our retirement planning. When we find a way to contribute to our world, we nourish our well-being. It doesn’t have to be in grand terms like global initiatives. It means living your life – during your career and after – in a way that shows you have passion for your purpose and you acted in a way that leaves your workplace, the community, or the world in a better way than how you found it. That is what people will remember about you; that is your reputation.

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