Our image — also called reputation — can be an incredibly powerful force, whether working for us or against us. We’d all rather it work for us. When it does, the things right in front of us generally become easier. Our access to opportunity seemingly increases. This appears to be exactly what we’d want, and so we’re wooed into guarding, protecting, and promoting our reputation above all else.
A good reputation must be earned, and there’s a lot of value in the hard work it takes to do so. There is a part of our image, though, that will always be outside of our control; no matter how hard we work. Because our image is dependent upon what others think of us.
A sobering reality for those of us committed to creating change that matters — change always happens on the edges, on the fringes of culture far away from consensus. Meaning that on our path to pursuing meaningful change, we can be guaranteed that there will be times when the majority believes that we’re foolish, crazy, and wrong. Actually, that’s best case scenario.
If our image is the thing that drives us in our quest for change, we will crumble before we ever get there. We must be driven by something deeper.
Enter substance. The stuff we’re truly made of.
When our image is stripped away, when we’re in the crucible of meaningful change, when the layers have been peeled away and our core is revealed, our substance appears. In our quest to make important differences in our world, this moment is an inevitability. We will always encounter it. And if we wait until then to decide on our substance, we will be disappointed to discover that choice was determined long ago.
The time to choose is now. Today. It’s tempting to concentrate on reputation, after all that is the part of us constantly on display to the world. It takes courage to decide differently — to direct our focus on our substance instead; knowing that work of substance is often done out of view, and that there’s no assurances that everyone else will ever understand who we are choosing to be inside.
It all comes down to this: If we are ever going to explore the edges where real change is made, it will be our substance — not our image — that gets us there.