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How To Have Character

Did your girlfriend just call you out and say that you have no character? Did you just get laid off because of a lack of character? Did you just get sentenced to a three-week stay in the county jail because of your character? Stop mulling over those holiday blues because the answer you’ve been looking for is just around the corner.

Here are three ways to build up your character, with guaranteed results in six months or less!

The Banking Theory

Think of your character as a bank. Every negative action your character takes will deduct funds from your “character account” while every positive action will deposit funds into your account. So, it seems pretty obvious that you want to minimize or eliminate all of your deductions and move towards building up deposits that accrue interest over time. Unlike a real bank, however, both your deductions and your deposits will accrue interest over time. So if you’re in the red, over time the interest on your principal will perpetually destroy your character and vice versa. Sound complicated enough? Okay, let’s get started.

Eliminate Deductions

The first thing you want to do is to eliminate deductions from your account altogether. Your biggest reason for deductions from your character account is most likely due to the fact that your actions are not consistent with your words. In other words, your character has been suffering because you talk the talk but you don’t walk the walk.

If you say that you’re going to do something, you’d better do it and do it quickly. The more time you take in doing something, even if you eventually do it, the greater the potential that it will deduct funds from your character account.

Deductions can also come in the form of not being on time or not sticking to your schedule. If you develop a reputation for being always late, or always canceling or changing times for a meeting or an event, you become undependable. An undependable person is caught up in a vicious cycle of making a promise, but for some reason or other, has to amend or retract that promise. The price that an undependable person pays from his or her character account is severely damaging.

It is reversible, however, over time when you repeatedly show that you are not late and that you stick to your schedule. This will eliminate your negative deductions and credit you with positive deposits.

Honestly, I have a bad problem with this. I say that I’ll call you back on such and such day at such and such time but I don’t do it.

That only leads to an eventual expectation of broken promises. Not only that, but when someone asks me to do something, I automatically say I’ll do it. When I don’t, it counts against me. As insignificant as it may seem, keeping your word at the smallest things, over time will accrue interest in your character account.

Create Deposits

The second thing you want to do after you’ve made an effort to eliminate your deductions is to focus on generating positive deposits into your account. It’s not enough to simply stop doing things that damage your character; you have to do things that will build your character from the ground up. One way to do that is to simply do the opposite of what you’re already doing. If lying to your boss about how many coffee breaks you’ve taken this week has been damaging your character, you want to start being honest about it. Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re constantly changing your schedule and breaking promises, you want to start sticking to it and keep all your promises — come what may. Once you start reversing your negative behavior into a more positive behavior, the results will speak for themselves.

You can also expedite the process by simply fulfilling all your responsibilities and roles. This will create other avenues for you to credit deposits into your account. For example, if you are a school janitor, there are certain responsibilities that you have. If you do not fulfill any one of those responsibilities, you will be liable for censure and over time, possible termination of employment. Simply doing your job and doing it well will allow you to build your character and go further by going beyond your stated responsibilities.

Think of it this way: even if you were doing things that were beyond your responsibilities, like changing the principal’s engine oil every three months, but you weren’t cleaning the hallways you’d eventually be skating on thin ice. Even though your principal would hate firing you, he’d have to find someone who could at least do the job as required. Building your character is equivalent to taking care of what’s on your plate at the moment and taking care of it well.

Consistency Is Key

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No matter what your particular lifestyle or belief is, any person can have character because character is simply making your words mean something, commanding respect from others by who you are, and consistently being the same person in front of others as you are when you’re alone. The key to building up character or destroying it is consistency. It’s only over time that you can be trustworthy, honest, dependable and reliable.

You can also think of character like a car. You don’t want a car that only works sometimes. You want it to be the there for you no matter the weather and the situation. One other thing is that destroying your character is a lot easier and quicker than it is to build it up.

The reason is that the interest rate on deductions is something like 200 percent, while the interest rate on deposits is a humble 4 percent. But over time, your character account balance will consistently grow and make you a valuable commodity based on your character alone.

Look at Enron, Dupont, Martha Stewart Inc., and a myriad of other corporations that have been decimated by poor character in a matter of an instant, while corporations like Dell, GE and CondeNast have commanded industry respect over a long period of time.

So there you have it. If you eliminate your deductions, create deposits and practice consistency, you will be on your way to building a strong and solid foundation for your character. Remember, who you are is the biggest asset you can give to your company, your family, your wife and yourself. Keep it guarded and keep it safe and you’ll be on your way to creating a lasting legacy that won’t fade or chip over time.

[Charlie Sim is a writer living in New Jersey. He welcomes comments, questions and fanmail at: sim.charlie.us@gmail.com.]

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