Every man starting out in life is concerned with gaining notoriety. He wishes to win a name for himself, and thereby gain the respect of others. We wish others to see us as we see ourselves; or perhaps we want to remake ourselves into something better than what we once were.
What are some of the ways this is done? It seems to me that the it can be done in one of the following ways. We will discuss them briefly, and then point to the method that is the best and most lasting.
No one really respects people who have nothing to their name except inherited glory. They will be shown deference, and will be beset on all sides by hangers-on and parasites, but they will not truly be respected.
Without some achievement of his own, such a man will always be seen as little more than a doorkeeper minding the family manor, or as we would say in Portuguese, a porteiro.
Accomplishment In Some Field
It is necessary for every man to master some sort of trade, job, profession, or calling. It does not matter if we are speaking of a military career, or the work of a tradesman, or a professional, or some other useful line of work.
What matters most importantly is that he be the absolute best at what he wishes to do. There is an unlimited feeling of satisfaction we receive when we are known as the “duty expert” in some field. Everyone wants to be admired, appreciated, or felt to be indispensable.
This way of achieving distinction is the best method for a man of younger years. The younger years should be spent in gaining experience and knowledge; and in so doing, a man’s name will eventually come to be circulated in a favorable way to others.
No man should neglect the exertion of all effort to be known for some kind of useful work. This kind of diligence has a very tangible payoff, which gets more precious with the years.
Force Of Personality
We can call this charisma. It would be wrong to omit this method as a legitimate way of making a name for oneself. People instinctively sense leadership qualities. There is a small percentage of men who, by virtue of their personal characters and charisma, are able to gain the respect of others simply by projecting the aura of leadership.
Of course the danger here lies in the fact that such qualities are difficult to test. It does often happen that those who appear, on the surface, to be of good character, are in fact not.
But mens’ powers of observation and perception, especially in a group, are not very great. They are easily swayed by bombast, aggressive confidence, and other indications that may point to a forceful personality. And this is why they are often easily led to follow unscrupulous or immoral characters.
Association With Other Men Of Distinction
Another way of achieving distinction is to associate oneself with other men of proven worth. These types of associations can be very good for a man, especially in his younger years. An experienced, older man can act as a guide and advisor to the younger man. This satisfies the desire of the older man to see his knowledge put to good use, and the desire in the younger man to make something of his life.
There are many men who have gained notoriety in this way.
In previous eras, these types of mentorship were perhaps more common than they are now. One gets the sense that respect for age has dwindled in our society, as has the willingness of elders to put themselves out for the younger generations.
In fact, I would say that the primary fault here is to be placed with the older generation. Older men and women are, in fact, more selfish and self-centered than younger generations are. This seems to be a liability of old age, in which the idealism and passion of youth comes to be replaced by the vices of age: excessive caution, greed, and protective hesitation in everything.
Some Special Achievement
Some men are able to achieve glory simply by some outstanding feat in some field. This may be the rarest way of achieving distinction. The stars of such men burn brightly, but for a very brief period. And after the novelty of their feat wears off, they often find themselves with little to show for it.
Because this sort of thing tends to be unplanned or unexpected, it is difficult to say very much about it. What is certain is that it is the briefest, most transitory type of glory, unless one can find a way to parlay it into some other productive effort that yields tangible results.
The Development Of Good Character
This is the best way for a man to win a good name for himself. For with this, he can do all of the other things I have listed above. He can work hard; he can win friends and audiences with others; and he can project his personality outward.
When I say “good character” I mean something specific: I mean the kind of man who acts honorably, justly, and equitably. He knows how to render that which is due to others. He knows how to maintain his composure in the face of injustice. And he knows what his responsibilities are.
He has the moral courage to resist the temptations of corruption, greed, jealousy, envy, sensual pleasure, and rage. He will feel these things, of course, but he will not allow them to derail him from his chosen path.
This type of man can be found in all classes of society. He is a type not confined to one class or another. In fact, it is through the virtue of justice that the poor man can make himself the superior to the rich man. For I have seen personally men who were of very modest means, and yet they were held in the highest respect by all in their communities–even by rich men–simply through their reputations for character and justice.
To be a man of good character, we must seek to perform the duties that justice demands. That is, we should act in just and good ways.
We should not be governed by rage, malice, or any other emotion. We must retain our adherence to our moral code. We do not, and cannot, sell ourselves for the attraction of the moment. Such behavior is demeaning, and beneath us.
This what we can call justice, or a just character. But was there ever a man so rare? Yes, and this is why he is so precious. The man of justice has roots that run deep and extend out in many directions. He cannot be blown over by a gust of wind, as are so many others.
Anyone wishing truly to make a name for himself will keep this in mind. The truly just man, the true man of character, is respected by all. Even by his enemies.
They may resent him, but they will never be able to deny his qualities.
Read More: Archimedes, The Sand-Reckoner
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