Let me tell you a story...
There once was a boy who grew up in a lower-middle class, blue-collar town near Buffalo, NY. His family sacrificed to send him to a local prep school. As one of the poorest students, he also participated in a work program consisting of janitorial jobs at the school to defray a portion of the cost. He was blessed with athletic talents, and during high school, discovered his love for basketball, where he set the school record for most points by scoring over 2,000 in his career, winning two state titles and reaching the state semifinals. This performance, coupled with his 6'11"³ stature, would eventually attract the attention of the country's finest collegiate basketball programs, where he blossomed into a distinguished college career reaching the NCAA tournament 4 times, and earning back-to-back Championships-one of the hardest things to achieve in any sport. He would be lauded as one of only four players to play in four consecutive Final Fours, the only one to ever start in all four Final Fours, and own the NCAA Tournament records for most tournament games played (23), most points scored (407), most free throws made (142), most free throw attempts (167).
These unprecedented achievements granted him the distinguished honor of the only college player selected for the U.S. National team in 1992, nicknamed the "Dream Team"-as it's often considered the greatest team ever assembled in any sport, winning the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics. He ended his collegiate career with an induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, and as a member of the "Dream Team" into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Let me tell you another story...
There once was an All-American boy who grew up in the northeast, and attended a local college prep school. With prototypical floppy hair, distinguished good looks, and a prodigy athlete on the basketball court, this boy reeked of entitlement. His athletic and academic skills would earn him a scholarship to play at one of the most elite collegiate institutions in the country. The air of arrogance he exuded on campus, and on the court, earned him the reputation of snobbish, cocky, and many choice expletives. His game exemplified that of a bully, to both his opponents, and his teammates, as he became defined by his "dirty" behaviors such as grabbing jerseys, throwing elbows, and intentionally knocking people down-at times, even drawing blood. It was because of the pristine reputation of the college he represented, and his personal stature on the team, he got away with anything on the court, and he knew it.
He took this behavior to an unconscionable degree, when he used a national televised stage during the NCAA tournament game to intentionally stomp on an opposing player's chest while down-a jab he later described as payback for an incident earlier in the game. It was a move that made fans and players irate. He was vilified in the world of sports as animosity for him echoed through every auditorium he entered, making it's way on tee shirts, signage, and incessant chants. Decades later, the hatred still lingers, as it seeps it's way into social media, where distain for him results in mentions 72 times per day on Twitter, and 318 times per day during NCAA tournament time.
To this day, he is, and will forever be known as the most hated college basketball player of all time.
There has never been a persona that possesses the ability to draw such polarizing interpretations than that of Christian Laettner. Duke University's Coach Krzyzewski, describes Laettner's collegiate career as "storybook". My question is..."which story do you tell?"
Christian Laettner stands as a reminder to us all, of the value of your personal brand, and that while the world will read and interpret your story, you hold the pen. As you embark on your own journey, as a leader in business, and in life, your personal brand is clutch. How people perceive you and how you choose to leverage your "personal capital" are important to your successes, but also to your ability to obtain the right experiences-all of which impact your progression. The proliferation of online social media, and technological advances blur the boundaries between work and personal lives, causing the policing of your personal Brand to be ever more critical. So ask yourself...how do you want your story to be told?
I don't hate Christian Laettner. Not even a little.
As a matter of fact, when I think of him, the word "love" versus "hate" comes to mind. Love for a sport he once played. Love for his infectious drive. Love for his powerful belief in himself. Love for his ability to elevate his teammates. Love for his aptitude to better a coach that was already known for greatness. Love for his commitment to insulate himself from the sounds of hatred at such a young age, and love for his conscious choice to channel the mythical character the world created of him to fuel his performance. But most importantly, love for giving me the reminder of authorship of my own personal Brand, and mindfulness of how that story can be retold to the world.
At least, that's how I tell it.