What Hollywood Has Taught Us About Reputation and Legacy

Your reputation precedes you.

How many times have we heard that phrase?

Apparently not enough since many sex offenders blatantly ignore it. And it’s high time they didn’t. No sex offender or sexually aggressive person should be celebrated. In fact, they should be shamed and prosecuted. That’s what Hollywood has shown us lately.

Weinstein, Spacey, Cosby — these outed offenders are just the tip of the iceberg.

In time, more offenders and names of victims will come out (remember Tiger Woods’ scandal — what a list!). And in different industries, we’ll see who has truly been naughty and who has been nice. The world is under a microscope and we can choose to focus on any part of it.

We’re in the age of transparency. Most people get that. But those caught up in power and money, they tend to believe that transparency does not apply to them. In an age of social networks so convenient and robust, they beat out every news source in the planet you have to believe that few things are private anymore.

Furthermore, your PR firm can’t spin the negative behavior caught on camera in nearly every public establishment. Sometimes it feels like the eye in the sky is God, seeing all and judging us for our acts. This of course, can be a good thing. And we shouldn’t have to try to be nice. This should be a natural thing because we were raised right. Let’s hope that most of us had good teachers in life that helped us develop character and morality.

The sad truth is, despite loving parents, great friends, and outstanding teachers our egos often take over. Everything we learn about humility and compassion goes out the door when some individuals are flooded with money, fame, and power. In the wrong hands, these are the unholy trinity for corruption and vice.

Let’s step back for a moment.

What happens to an individual when they get more of what they want? (In this case, celebrity status.) Does it change them, or does it amplify some deep-seated desire? For example, many famous actors will tell you that they’re just the same boy from the small town they grew up in. Nothing’s changed except they’re living their dream career in Hollywood. Humility.

Then there’s the other side of the coin.

There are actors who love the craft, but fame even more — no matter what the cost. Along the way, they build up greater confidence and perception about themselves. Maybe they feel like they’re indestructible and above the law. They feel like they can get away with anything so they try anything. That may include doing inappropriate things like making unwanted sexual advances.

On the surface, it’s a crime.

Deep down, it’s a cry for help. It says to me, “You’re not perceiving me as the greatest thing on earth, like I do, so I’m going to make you like me.” It’s sad that people so desperately want to be loved or touched, and feel that they have to coerce others to do so. This is an amplification of what they’ve always wanted and who they really are. Call it a lack of self-love or just bad ethics, it’s a psychology we must all figure out.

And it’s not just a problem in Hollywood.

In dozens of other industries beyond film, sexual offenses have been quiet too long. So why don’t we hear about these offenses in business as much as in Hollywood or politics? Fear is the basic reason. If you want to keep your job, you better keep quiet. That’s fear talking. Personal shame comes with that too (how did I get myself into this situation?).

Employees and actors are quite similar in this way. They want to make short-term sacrifices (like fending off perverts and bullies) to create a better long-term outcome like fame. Anyone who has ever made it to the top had to be nice to someone to get there. People in power exploit this reality. Unfortunately, this could be a cycle of abuse, fulfilling itself each time a victim turns into a victimizer.

We must end this cycle. That’s why the courageous victims of recent offenders coming forward should be celebrated. They are taking a stand against what’s wrong and by doing so, preventing future offenses. Hopefully Hollywood has made people think twice about who they’ll become when they find success: a problem or solution to situations like these.

Taking It Personally

So how do you teach people about the importance of applied ethics? That’s a tough one. I’ve taught a lot of young men who idolize those with great power and money. I know that building character takes time. However, even young professionals can prepare for a time when they’ll have great power and influence.

An extreme exercise is to try to stand in the shoes of someone being accused of something bad. Imagine if everyone knew.

Kevin Spacey could be you.

Maybe you’re not a pervert, but a bad reputation can be manifested in several ways. Bad deals will catch up with you. Disgruntled subordinates will eventually fight back. Angry customers will voice their opinions on multiple platforms.

In a matter of hours, you can lose what it took a lifetime to build.

Despite what your psychology teacher told you about how important your ego is, keep it in check. Really, it’s not all that important. Beyond being a valuable asset yourself, improving an entire industry and helping others is far more important than an over-developed ego.

The side effect of good behavior is that you don’t have to try for people to like you.

You don’t have to try to be liked as much because by doing good things you are likable. As Professor Adam Grant wrote in Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, takers win the short-game and givers win the long-game in a major way.

What saddens me about celebrities falling from grace is that so many people looked up to them. Bill Cosby was a symbol of hope for African-Americans and other minorities in Hollywood. Tiger Woods’ success was a breakthrough in a white-dominated sport. Lance Armstrong became a national hero and then a national disgrace.

(On a side note, at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton Armstrong’s downfall caused the CEO to create a new rule about naming buildings after athletes — they must all be deceased and in good standing with the public. The Tiger Woods Center remains, but Nike has ceased production on golf equipment.)

So strap yourself in.

Currently we have more sexual allegations coming down the newswire with Corey Feldman and Ed Westick. Tomorrow we’ll hear about more offenders. Add to that, various other fields involving schools, churches, businesses, and governments. Decades of filth is finally getting exposed and washed away. (Maybe social media is good for something!)

The power of the minority and the oppressed have a voice and a story — and it deserves to be heard.

And if you’re not there to defend that voice, what kind of person does that make you? What kind of legacy and reputation will you leave behind?

Peyton is an educator, writer, and coach who loves to help people obtain greater focus and fulfillment in their lives through story. He has worked with private clients and global brands. Peyton is based in Portland, Oregon — a magical and mysterious city enveloped by a Douglas Fir rainforest.

“To pick up more of what I’m puttin’ down, go to arliepeyton.com.”

I help brands accelerate growth 🚀, monetize 💰, and change the world. 🌎 Disclosure and offers @ http://bit.ly/3awUoqp

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