A sign on a tree, and the tree has grown over it.

Anyone who’s ever been in business knows the trope of the “overnight success” that is anything but overnight. Suddenly everyone is aware of a brand or service, but when we dig deeper we find that someone has been industriously working on this for months, years, or even decades.

I was thinking the other day about this in relation to the statement that it takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, and only a moment to destroy it. I don’t think that’s the case.

Let’s exempt for a moment reputations nefariously tarnished by bad actors; dirty politicians making up garbage about their competitor for example.

I think an abruptly tarnished reputation is the result of months, years, or even decades of hidden behavior and beliefs. When Paula Deen used the N word to refer to some children in her yard, it’s not like she had suddenly become a bigot. When we found out that Jared from Subway was into child porn, it’s not like he had just picked that up that morning.

Just like an overnight success, a broken reputation is built over a long period of time, and is carefully tended and nourished by the person building it.

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