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“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Coach John Wooden’s wisdom is timeless, and this famous quote of his continues to become more and more important and applicable as time goes by.

With all the social media sites today, people are more and more frequently receiving communication about their reputation. Sometimes they see something negative posted about them and get upset or feel a need to strike back. This is counterproductive. Coach Wooden’s quote about character and reputation is a quick reminder that can help us calm down and keep things in proper perspective.

This topic was one Coach discussed directly with his teams every year. In his book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court with Steve Jamison, Coach recounted the discussion:

I told my players each year, “Fellows, you’re going to receive criticism. Some of it will be deserved and some of it will be undeserved. Either way, deserved or undeserved, you’re not going to like it.

“You’re also going to receive praise on occasion. Some of it will be deserved and some of it will be undeserved. Either way, deserved or undeserved, you’re going to like it.

“However, your strength as an individual depends on how you respond to both criticism and praise. If you let either one have any special effect on you, it’s going to hurt us. Whether it’s criticism or praise, deserved or undeserved, makes no difference. If we let it affect us, it hurts us.”

Coach’s idea about not getting too carried away when you receive praise is important.

In his book Wooden on Leadership with Steve Jamison, Coach Wooden comments on how this focus on character not reputation affected his approach toward competition and how he felt it could be applied in business:

Don’t allow others, including your competitors, to define you or your organization.

While others will judge you strictly in relation to somebody or something else—the final score, the bottom line or a championship—this is neither the most demanding nor the most productive standard.

The highest, purest and most difficult standard of all, the one that ultimately produces one’s finest performance—and the great treasure called “peace of mind”—is that which measures the quality of your personal effort.

Related: How Character Fuels Intentness

Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.