What Brett Kavanaugh Can Teach Young Athletes About Brand

In the coming days, the fate of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice will be decided. This piece isn’t about his guilt or innocence. Or even whether I believe the women who’ve stepped forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

What’s happening to and around Mr. Kavanaugh is an excellent teaching tool for young people everywhere about the importance of understanding yourself, the world around you, and how all of that impacts your brand in the short- and long-term.

I want to hyper-focus my remarks on young athletes who at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels are often, for a myriad of reasons, under a far more intense microscope than their peers. And far more likely to find their behavior under the scrutiny of their community or even the whole world.

As I tell young athletes each and every day, branding isn’t just the well-crafted statements, the fancy graphic images, or the edited videos you post to your social media. Your brand, or rather, your reputation, is built through each and every action you take and people you encounter throughout your life.

The original singing cowboy Will Rogers famously coined the phrase “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”

The moment at which a person’s reputation is lost can occur in so many different settings and as a result of so many different actions. I frequently remind my clients that: everyone has eyes and the walls always have ears, so be extremely careful what you say and do.

Below are a few obvious, and not-so-obvious, ways a reputation can be lost:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Or at least, know your limits. Drugs and alcohol limit the control you have on your words and actions. Avoid consuming them, especially if you’re in unfamiliar environments.
  • Know when to leave. You’ve likely heard the term “guilt by association”. You yourself might not be doing anything wrong, but others around you are. If and when you’re experiencing this, by all means leave.
  • Be a friend. If you see a friend or teammate acting out or in a compromising situation, come to their aid and remove them from the situation.
  • Avoid the cameras. You don’t need to be in every picture at every party you attend. Be very selective about what images you’re in, who else is in the picture, and what might be seen in the background.
  • Understand your audience. If you’re doing community service work or attending a charity event, learn about the cause and make sure you understand what’s expected of your attendance and if there are any words or phrases that might be inappropriate in that setting.
  • Don’t lie. As Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
  • Be kind. Showing grace, kindness, and compassion to others is never a bad move.
  • Conduct frequent audits. Audit your social media accounts to ensure that you don’t have any posts containing inappropriate picture or offensive statements.

In short, like my grandmother used to say, “Don’t give the gossips any fat to chew.”

Do I mean to say that someone can never repair their image after a mistake? Of course not. But just ask someone like Tiger Woods how painful it is to climb back to the top once you’ve descended to the bottom. The raw emotion of his interview directly following his PGA Tour win is proof of just how much he’s struggled to regain his prior prominence.

The point is to do whatever you can, whenever you can, to be the very best version of yourself. That way, when you reach the apex of your life and career you can be confident knowing you’ve built a solid brand.

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