Bad Influence: Phantom – The Ghost Who Walks

It was during the summer vacation after the second grade, I was gifted with a bunch of hardbound comics to keep me busy. I was a voracious reader from that very young age. I could devour books like a paper shredder.

Phantom Comics

In that stack of books, the one that caught my attention was Phantom comics. It had this masked man as the hero. But unlike the super-heroes of the Marvel & DC world, this was a normal guy. He couldn’t fly or smash through walls. In fact, he used to carry a couple of handguns with him.

In retrospect, as I read and understood about the legend of Phantom, I now realize that I had then learned my first life-lesson. The legend of Phantom is that he is more than 400 years old and that he cannot be killed – and hence the tagline “The Ghost Who Walks”. But in reality, he is a normal human, made of flesh and bones, which is highly perishable. However, every successive generation of the family has been adept to step into the shoes of the Phantom and keep the legend alive.

Over the years, generation after generation, created the illusion of a man who cannot be killed. Imagine if you were up against such a person, wouldn’t you have half lost the battle even before it begun? After all, there are authentic references to his reputation and you cannot think otherwise.

Reputation is the key to one’s success. It does not matter if you have a good or bad reputation. In fact, I would go as far to say, no reputation is bad reputation. You can take it either way, having no reputation is bad or there is no such thing as a bad reputation.

Here is an example. In one of my previous jobs, I happened to work with a manager who was nicknamed “The Terminator” by the technicians. Reason – any process he was assigned was shut down or outsourced in six months. Now you would think, this is a bad reputation to have, wouldn’t you? Well, that was not the case. The smart fellow used this reputation to his benefit.

You see, this fellow had sort of become an expert in wrapping up a process whether it was being terminated due to business reason or being outsourced for cost reasons. And, the beauty of his expertise was his ability to do it with almost zero attrition. After he had taken up a process he would slowly start referring people for internal movement to other managers and by the time it was the D-day, almost all but a handful would be left in the process, who were also in the pipeline to be absorbed into another process.

The huge advantage that he reaped out of his (mal)reputation was that he did not have to give anyone any justification or reason for the process being shut down. He did not have to convince anyone that it was for good, or even have that conversation. In fact, once a project was assigned to him, the team would take it for granted that the project is either getting shut down or outsourced. Trust me, when you have the responsibility of wrapping up a process in an IT company, it is a PR nightmare as well as doing it with close to zero attrition is nearly impossible. When people are already open to the idea that its time to move, all that remains to do, is the paper work.

So the gist of the story is, I got understand the importance of reputation at a very early age. I have had the opportunity to have both good and bad reputation, and use it to my advantage when it was needed. Reputation is the most important part of your personality and you should guard it with your life.

Thanks to Phantom – The Ghost Who Walks for the first and very valuable life-lesson.

Author: Sundar Thirugnanam

An IT Laborer by the day and a cynically optimistic guy trying to break free from the matrix during after hours. I write, I shoot and I ramble over here. Cheers.

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