"Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." — John Wooden
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“Fire! Everyone out of the building!”
Confusion spread through the supermarket like a wildfire, even before the smoke alarms went off.
I was only in my early twenties and had never before been in a building that was on fire, so this experience certainly made for quite an interesting day as a deli clerk!
With heart pounding, I headed towards the nearest exit and on the way out I watched with fascination one of my coworkers who wasn’t acting like everyone else. Instead of hurriedly making his way to the exit, he instead calmly went to all of the restrooms ensuring that everyone was able to get out safely.
Witnessing this, I thought to myself: "That's the kind of person I want to be. In times of adversity, I want to be the one helping others.”
It’s said that reputation is who people think you are, while character is who you really are. Regardless of how well you may curate your reputation, if it’s not backed up by a positive authentic character, then when the going gets tough and you find yourself in over your head in hot water, whatever shallow veneer you’ve created for yourself will quickly dissolve revealing your true colors.
It takes a certain degree of vulnerability to stay in character wherever you go and not let the whims of the world break your stride, but staying in character in the good times, the not-so-good times, and even the in-between times, is how you express who you really are, your values, and what you most aspire for the world.
That day at the grocery store I recognized my co-worker’s behavior as an admirable expression of a value I hold dear and made the decision to incorporate that same trait into my own character, that way the next time I find myself in a similar situation I would know what to do and be empowered to follow through.
What values do you hold dear? Who do you know who demonstrates those values? And how can you mirror these same behaviors with your own character?
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Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.