To your good name

In Le Chandail de Hockey (The Sweater), Roch Carrier, the renowned French Canadian author of short stories, describes the trials and tribulations he endured after discovering that Eaton’s catalogue had mistakenly sent him a blue and white Toronto Maple Leafs jersey instead the red, white and blue of a new Maurice Richard Canadiens jersey emblazoned with the famous number 9.

The story is set in the Québec village of Ste-Justine and shows the depth of reverence felt by Canadiens fans for Richard in the late 40’s and early 50’s. I grew up in the Québec of that era and Richard’s name and that reverence still resonate with me. (You can view the National Film Board’s short of the book by clicking on the link at the end of this post.)

In those days, Maurice Richard was, first and foremost, a human being, albeit an enormously talented human being. His nickname was The Rocket, but no one would have presumed to refer to him as a “brand” any more than they would have used the concept to describe Jean Beliveau, Bernard Geoffrion, Andy Bathgate, Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Bobby Orr, Johnny Bower, Jacques Plante or any other stars of that era.

How things have changed. It’s no longer considered acceptable to be known by your good name alone. Now you’re told that if you hope to attract the attention of recruiters, you have to be your own hockey card and that you have to agree to be one of the millions in the collections of tell-all social media websites. These websites were originally created to make life easier for people you don’t know and have no reason to trust. People who are in no way bound to protect your good name, let alone to tell you what they’ll do with your personal hockey card once they find it.

Your brand is your name. You worked hard to build the credibility behind it. It is arguably your most precious and irreplaceable possession. What are the people who want you to put your present and future in their hands promising you in return? And what are the implications for you if they don’t live up to that promise? Are you just one of several cards they’re trying to sell?

This isn’t to say that there are no honest brokers among those people. But if you insist on having intermediaries speak on your behalf, choose those intermediaries carefully and wisely. Understand how they intend to protect your present and your future before you sign on the dotted line — even when there is no dotted line. If all else fails, there’s nothing stopping you from learning how to speak on your own behalf and in your own voice.

Here’s to you, your good name and your personal due diligence.

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