Building a Reputation, One Crow at a Time

I heard an amazing thing on the radio the other day. It goes like this: if you piss off a crow, then it will start squawking at you. Other crows will look to see what is going on and will start squawking at you, too. That’s not the amazing thing.

The amazing thing is that crows remember exactly who they were squawking at, and will squawk at the same person the next time they see them. So you can be walking in a different part of town on a different day, and if any one of those crows is there who squawked at you the first time, he’ll start it up again. And again, other crows will join in. And all those other crows now remember you as someone not to be trusted, even though it was a friend of a friend that you pissed off in the first place. Folks, this is called a reputation. And if crows can do this kind of behavior, then you can bet your bottom dollar that people can do it too.

You can see in the above example that a reputation is not always fair. Only one crow has to be wronged for a whole ecosystem of crows to hate your guts. But because of this exponential wave effect of reputation-building, the smart thing to do is not to avoid building a bad reputation, but to actively build a good one.

How do you do that? Well, an Oscar-winning director friend of mine was talking to me about how she built her reputation. She set out to provide as consistently as possible an impression that she was someone who was good to work with. She was pleasant, kind, courteous, and respectful. She didn’t just wait to do this until someone important came along. She said she realized that even her friends could inadvertently spread a negative reputation that could affect her professional life. If she was chronically late, or consistently unreliable, even small jokes about this from people she loved could be spread from crow to crow to crow, especially as she became more well-known. In her work, she delivered what she promised in the way she had promised it. In other words, she became a solid woman of her word. People who worked with her wanted to work with her again. People who trusted her with money wanted to trust her with more, or they did because they had heard she had a reputation for bringing projects in on budget.

You can guess what happened. Eventually, her reputation earned her an Oscar, and now her career is driven almost entirely on reputation alone. I know what you’re saying. “Dr. Matt, obviously she had to have talent, as well.” Yes, but have you ever met a person who had a great deal of talent and was a complete jerk? I have, and success can drop away from them pretty darn easily. If they have success, they get it by bullying people. You can go that road if you want to, people, but see how happy you are if you do.

Also, interesting fact: people are notoriously bad at being able to tell crows apart. I didn’t have a metaphor to go with that; I just thought it was interesting. I also hate metaphors.

Anyway, start building that good reputation. Treat every person like they are the one person who can connect you with what you desire. Unless they are a jerk. In which case, stare them in the face and let out a gigantic squawk.

Just My Thoughts,
Dr. Matt*

*Dr. Matt is not a real doctor.

Dr. Matt

Dr. Matt* gives advice on relationships, life, death, half-life, pet ownership, sexuality, asexuality, proto-sexuality, and mustache growing. * Dr. Matt is not a real doctor.

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