The Importance Of Character & Reputation In Life

The 16th President of the United States, the great Abraham Lincoln, said “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

After some deep thought on Lincoln’s statement, I experienced some difficulty determining what might transcend the importance of character in our business and personal lives. Why you might ask?

Character refers to the mental and moral qualities distinctive to a human.

In my previous article, I talked about the importance of writing out a purpose statement and building a moral compass. Our character develops, molds, and forms from how we live our lives. Think of it as a big star spinning out of your moral compass galaxy.

How can we build better ethical cultures without character being a central component of the strategy? The truth serum says we cannot. Why?

Organizations that have ethical cultures generally exhibit high levels of employee satisfaction and productivity. Leaders communicate and operate through their values. In essence, culture encompasses the actions, attitudes, and values of the workforce.

While it is true that companies cannot exist without customers, they are lifeless without making employees their most valuable asset. Character is huge.

Stay with me. Our character grows like a big tree sprouting and expanding our core roots. We are what we value and exhibit conduct wise each day. All trees cast shadows and this is where reputation comes into play.

This can be a slippery slope for ambitious humans who knowingly or otherwise require validation in their lives. They place a higher value on their reputation rather than letting their values/conduct drive their paths.

Reputation is temporary and defined by what other humans say about you. Character lasts for eternity.

Do your best each day. No one can ask anymore or any less of us. Consult your moral compass and always be aware of character.

All the best/blessings, Mark

Mark Faris
Mark Farishttp://mpvethics.com/
MARK was born in New York City and currently lives in Minneapolis. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he graduated with a B.A. in sociology and speech communications. His entire career spanning 36 years has been in executive sales, marketing, business development, and organizational strategy. He has started and owned three businesses, including a $23 million computer networking company, started up two new sales divisions for publicly telecommunication/data companies including Sprint/Nextel, and was a Board Member for a $225 million U.K. technology manufacturer and distributor. He currently is President of MPV Ethics, LLC., an ethics training and consulting company working with organizations to build better ethical cultures. Mark also has the unique distinction of being convicted for two felonies: mail/wire fraud and money laundering and spent eleven months in a federal prison and halfway house returning to his family in June 2010. He has given over 150 presentations to high school students, universities, B-schools, law schools, and professional audiences regarding the importance of personal and business ethics in our lives. At the core of his renewed philosophy is identification of purpose, building a strong moral compass that helps us effectively deal with dilemmas of all types and sizes. His passion to teach, enrich, and develop others be successful , accountable, and improving the lives of others.


  1. I love the statement “Reputation is temporary, Character is eternity, as is the soul. Virtues are temporary but the soul is forever. Virtues give character and can define one’s reputation. Thank you!