Monday, March 01, 2010


hello my name is stickerThe answer to that question? Everything. Among the people who know you, when they hear your name, they think of everything about you. Your character. Your appearance. Your relationship with them. Your usual behavior. The terrific or horrible things you have done. Your demeanor. Your reputation. And the list goes on.

If you are famous, then all of those things are magnified among those who know of you. Apply the above factors to Tiger Woods, Angelina Jolie, Barack Obama, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Mark McGwire, Bernie Madoff.

Well, I think you get the idea. Thus, it was not surprising to read in a recent New York Times article that people with the Madoff name, whether relatives or not, feel the need to change it—or proclaim “not-related”—because of the stigma. (Madoff carried out the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time, causing client losses of more than $60 billion.) His daughter-in-law, Harriet, asked the court to allow her and her children to change their name to Morgan, noting that she cannot get a decent dinner reservation with the Madoff name, today synonymous with evil. And in the financial services world, she noted, the name is a real “horror show.”

Further, a guy I know who worked on the so-called legitimate side of the Madoff brokerage operation, has been out of work for months because of the stigma on his resume which, he says, is holding back potential employers.

However you stack it up, and whether you are an individual, a corporation or an institution, your name IS your total identity. It stands for all that you are. Your deeds and presentation create the perceptions that make your reality. May you build a name that anyone would be proud to bear.

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