Align Your Reality and Appearance

A reputation is priceless.  Your reputation is free, and requires no investment of money, nor does it require specific levels of education.  Reputations are difficult to manage and can be your foundation for professional excellence, being a good manager, or perhaps an inspirational leader.  It is the bedrock, your foundation, and works in tandem with work ethic, knowledge, and perseverance.  Reputations can be as hard as diamonds, but they can be fragile.  A moment’s indiscretion can shatter what took years to build, and in some cases, may never quite recover.  Ask former Tour-de-France champion, Lance Armstrong.

Ancient philosophers in the pre-Socrates age often argued and theorized on the nature of reality.  What is reality?  What are things made of?  Is everything just an illusion?  Over time, the nature of the argument of reality versus appearance can take on a different meaning.

Your reputation can be based more on appearance than reality, for right or wrong.  You may be a good worker, knowledgeable and dedicated, but if others see you differently, your appearance will be more real than reality.  Young workers, and those just starting out in a new career need to fully appreciate this, and should focus on aligning these two into a single component.

Always reflect on your words and actions.  You may be a hard worker, but if you are gossiping or do not communicate well with others, the reality of your reputation may be different than you realize.  Do you “tell it like it is” and feel you are honest and provide valuable insight?  Place yourself in others’ shoes and see things from a different perspective.  Perhaps you are correct and you feel as if you made a positive difference.  What if others may see you as arrogant and self-righteous instead?  What is the reality of your reputation at this point?  Will you be the direct, but helpful manager, leader, or co-worker, or will you be viewed as something else?  Will you be effective in a team environment when your appearance is less than ideal?

Reality and appearance can be one in and same, or they can be quite different.  The more different these two are, the stronger likelihood your reputation is diminished.  Always focus on your actions, mannerisms, and your words in all your interactions.  Take the time to reflect on yourself every day, and identify what you can do to manage yourself better.

As a young worker, your actions and reputation are all you will have at the beginning.    However, your actions and reputation, when properly managed and maintained can be strong enough to build your foundation.  As you learn and grow, this foundation will ensure your success, and will always be there.  But you need to take care of it and maintain it.  Even a mansion, if not properly maintained, will crumble and degrade.

Understand that appearance can be more real than reality.  For right or wrong, people are not able to glimpse into your mind, but can only see your appearance and your actions.  In the age of miscommunication, intolerance, and increasing isolation, take the time to ensure your reality and appearance are in sync.  Then your foundation will be solid and firm, and your successes will grow.

Develop Your Roots

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Most of us have a tendency to look at the finished product and view it as unattainable.  We may go to a concert, and see a world class pianist or violist work their instruments into brilliant and beautiful songs, and assume we could never be as good.  We go to a sporting event to watch a basketball player dribbling the ball with astounding precision and coordination and cheer as they help the team win.  We see things in the finished product, but we do not always realize just how much effort and practice went into the finished product.

Think of the roots of a tree.  Examine an old, majestic oak, and marvel at the symmetry and beauty.  You don’t see the extensive roots, which may be just as impressive.  These old giants withered countless storms and bad weather.  The seasons have blurred through time for hundreds of years, over a thousand for some species.

Always take care of your roots and you will flourish in all aspects of your job, and life.  When starting a new job, or getting a professional career started, do not worry about how much or little you know.  Grow your roots though learning and developing.  Don’t worry about how much you know, or how good you may look in the eyes of others.  Most of this is superficial.  Learn all the fundamentals, and your foundation will flourish.  Your roots will grow.  There will be others who are experts in your area or department or in your life.  They may be able to build and produce much more than others.  They may be a skilled computer programmer, whose complex and advanced code may be as impressive as intimidating.  Their root system will be extensive and developed.

As when you watch a basketball game, you see the end result of a lifetime of practice and development.  Stephan Curry may make shooting look easy as he makes shots from seemingly any part of the basketball court.  However, you do not see the countless hours of practice he spent growing up.  In terms of basketball ability, Curry is a redwood, immense and impressive.  A redwood sapling nearby may look up and think it would be impossible to grow to be as thick and tall as mature redwoods nearby.  Yet, after many years, the young sapling gets larger and larger.  Continuous practice and development will grow your skills and create a solid foundation.  As a young worker, you will slowly become a redwood among in your organization and in the workforce if you keep focus on your foundation, your roots.

While it is always a great idea to look upon others with admiration, and to wish to be more like them, always remember that you will need to put in the time.  Practice, plan, and develop at all times, and before long, you will become the majestic oak or redwood that everyone admires, but your roots will be extensive, providing a solid foundation for what everyone sees.