Reliability is in the Eye of the Beholder: Dealing with Negative Reliability

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Reliability is an interesting personal trait. You don’t really posses reliability, it’s more of a trait that others place upon you. If you think of an individual on a deserted island where there is no external point of reference for reliability, can that person truly be considered reliable?

While contemplating along this line it becomes apparent that different types of reliability exist. Mostly we think about positive reliability, like picking up the milk, washing the dishes after your spouse cooks, or delivering that report on time. What we generally fail to realize is that reliability works in the opposite way as well. For example, we all know those people who are always fashionably late. We come to rely on that bit of knowledge as a defining part of their character.

So we come to a question of positive and negative reliability. Positive reliability can be thought of as a favorable trait that others place upon you when they trust you to complete a task that takes your relationship in a positive direction. Negative reliability would be a trait that works in the opposite direction. If you consider it carefully, negative reliability can be either mild, or destructive.

Mild Negative Reliability

Mild negative reliability (MNR) is a trait that can be viewed as generally negative but can be overlooked and integrated into another’s perception of you. This trait can be seen by others as quirky or harmless and fits into their overall perception of you as a person. For example:

“Johnny will get us there on time, he doesn’t stop for traffic lights!”


“I scheduled dinner for 8 and told Mike to meet us there at 7. You know he likes to wait until the last minute to get ready.”

Both of these statements tell you something about the person they refer to. They’re not really positive traits, and overall are not that bad, just a quirk of personality that the observer can hook reliability onto.

Destructive Negative Reliability

Destructive Negative Reliability (DNR) is a trait that is harmful to your credibility. People who are viewed in this light are hard to trust and can be passed over for really important work. This trait is one that you want to avoid if at all possible, in both yourself and others. A person with DNR will drain you of energy and time while providing no benefit to your relationship. They are best cut from your life before they can do too much damage. A couple examples of this reliability type:

“Joe’s a real procrastinator, are you sure you want him to write this proposal? It’s too important to be left to chance.”


“I asked Jenny to pick up a couple things at the market for dinner, but she’s so lost in social media that she’ll probably forget again. I should just do it myself.”

Again, both of these statements tell you something about the person they refer to. The difference here is that you can feel a more damaging impact to the relationships. This type of trait cannot be overlooked and if left alone can eventually erode the relationship to the point of breaking.

Determining and Avoiding Negative Reliability in Yourself and Others

Listen/Observe: The first step in avoiding negative reliability is becoming aware of the tendency, both in yourself and others. Listen carefully to how others talk about you. This is an easy way to determine if you have mild negative reliability since others will usually have no trouble bringing it to your attention or making a joke about it at your expense. You can also learn more about your acquaintances by listening to how other people view them. Just remember that the trait of reliability that you place on another person should be based on your own views and values, and should be influenced by others as little as possible.

Ask: Determining if you have destructive negative reliability is a little more difficult if you’re using an indirect approach like listening. If someone views you as unreliable they may not want to talk to you about this trait or mention it around other people if you are near. If you think you are viewed in this light and you want to get to the truth you will need to push them on the subject. Tell the person you are talking to that you want to improve and can only do so if you know where you need the attention.

Evaluate: Once you are aware of a negative trait you will need to evaluate it. No one wants to think that they have negative traits, but it’s a fact of life that there will be something about you that others view in a less than positive light. You will need to determine if the trait is impactful enough to warrant attention or whether it can be written off as a personality quirk.

Act: If you determine that a negative trait is serious enough to alter then it is time to plan and act. Research ways to improve the behavior or habit in the most efficient way possible. Keep track of your progress and ask others for input along the way.

Using Negative Reliability to Your Benefit

I wouldn’t be covering all of the bases if I didn’t include this rather dubious though powerful technique. This plays off of Robert Greene’s 26th Law of Power, Keeping your Hands Clean. If you find yourself in a position where you need to get out of a project or relationship you can utilize the negative reliability in another person to accomplish the task.

For example, as a leader you know that a certain feature in your project will add nothing to the bottom line and is likely to only drain resources away from other vital areas. The catch however, is that a member of the board has their heart set on including it. Directly cutting the feature and backing up the decision with reason and facts may work, but it could impact your career and make it harder for you to get ahead. Instead, give the feature to a person you know has negative reliability and is likely to drop the ball.

Utilizing this tactic allows you multiple advantages. You keep the board member happy by showing that the feature is being worked on while the core of your resources concentrate on more important features and tasks. In the end you win whether the NR person completes the task or if they drop the ball. You may catch some blowback if the feature fails to be created, but not as much as the person who was responsible for the failure.

Reliability is a trait that others place upon you. Good, bad, positive, negative, you have some control over it, though ultimately your reliability is governed by the other person’s view of you. Negative reliability doesn’t have to be a bad thing and it would benefit you to become aware of your own tendencies and quirks. Use the steps above to determine if you have negative reliability and whether or not it is damaging enough to remedy.

Your Future Self is a Lie, and Your Reliability Depends on that Understanding!

I used to joke privately whenever I made a big purchase or went out to dinner for the fifth time in a week. I would say: “I am leaving this to the least reliable person I know to pay the bill, my future self”. Then I would force down the rising tide of panic at the thought of my credit card balance as I handed it over for yet another meal or toy I didn’t really need. This tendency to relegate important tasks to the future extended to other parts of my life. This caused many people to eventually question my reliability, and that is a place you never want to find yourself.

I couldn’t really grasp the nature of this problem at the time. Only in recent years have I become aware that my future self was an entirely fictional personification of my worst traits. I projected my laziness, ennui, and avoidance into this entity that I was casually joking about. The result? I would take no action at worst, or limited action at best. The problem wasn’t my future self, it was my attitude in the current moment. This attitude, projected into my future state caused feelings of helplessness.

In this post, I will make two points out of this brief glimpse into a personal challenge. First, how to avoid relegating important decisions and actions to the future, and second, how to rebuild when you feel that your reliability is in a fragile state. Why is this important? Because reliability lays the foundation for trust and without it, your relationships, personal, social, and business, will falter and ultimately fail.

Let’s start with clearing up a misconception about the future self. If you follow the reasoning of many philosophers and let’s face it, many entrepreneurs, the idea of the future self is discarded in favor of the ever-present moment. Therefore, it is impossible to relegate anything to the future self since it doesn’t actually exist. Any action you take can only ever be taken in the present moment, no matter when that present moment happens. So the quick and dirty answer is that reliability happens in the moment, not in the future.

Now we can tackle the question of your reliability in the present moment. Answer the following questions as honestly as you can and pay attention to how the answers make you feel. There is no grading or reliability scale for this.

  • In the last six months have you been able to accomplish more than half of the personal goals you set out for yourself?
  • In the last six months have you delivered your work projects promptly and kept management updated on delays?
  • Think of the last promise you made to a family member, your spouse, girlfriend, or your children. Or maybe your promise was to a friend or one of your social groups. Did you fulfill the promise quickly without any unnecessary delay?

The point of these questions is to look at each facet of your life: personal, professional, and social. When you make a promise, whether to yourself or another, you are making a contract that is paid through your reliability. The caveat, these questions only make sense if the promises you’re making are ones you have full intention of completing. The promises you make to shut someone up, or to make yourself feel better only serve to undermine and destroy your reliability.

Now let’s get the obvious point out of the way. If you’ve been able to accomplish at least half of your personal goals, maintained your productivity and regular delivery of work projects, and keep up your promises to friends and family, then you’re all set. You are highly reliable and you have my well-deserved envy. CONGRATULATIONS!

So what happens if, like me, you find yourself feeling like you could do better? Well, the first step is to stop feeling sorry for yourself and acknowledge the fault. Next, you start working on your reliability.

  • Recall a promise made in each of the areas listed above, write them down if you have to.
  • Ask for clarification if you are unsure.
  • See the promise through to completion.

Your goal here is to stop the tendency to relegate promises and activities to your future self. If it can be done now, then do it. If you need to wait, then take an action against it now, even if you’re just setting a reminder on your phone. Both follow-through and delivery are paramount in taking your reliability up a notch. When you deliver on your promise, be sure to include the phrase: “Thank you for your patience”. This shows that you are still in control.

So what happens if you find yourself in a position where you are no longer trusted or seen as reliable? Well, from there you need to climb your way out of the hole your actions have created. This is a lot more difficult since you are starting from a position of negative trust. You had a trusting relationship, or perhaps one of neutral trust, and let it fall to pieces through neglect and broken promises.

Your first step is to seek forgiveness. This is the most critical step as it shows others that you’re aware of your shortcomings and willing to work on them. This is also the most painful of the steps. You will stand before those whose trust you betrayed and ask them for another chance, and there’s the possibility that you won’t get it.

Your next step is to forgive yourself. Yes, it may seem strange and a bit new age to state this, but the fact is you can’t move ahead if you’re thinking about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. It is also highly likely that the previous step has brought to your attention a number of betrayals you never knew about or had forgotten. You need to accept these as past faults and forgive yourself before you can move on. This must be done even if the betrayed has not forgiven you.

Next is action. It’s not enough to seek forgiveness, you must act on that forgiveness or you may forever destroy the relationship you’re seeking to save. Look for those opportunities to improve on your reliability and exploit them to the fullest. Make promises then act on them immediately.

Finally, track your progress. You can use a journal to jot down the promises you’ve made and how you intend to honor them. I also suggest that at least once a month you follow up with those to whom you’ve made promises to see how you are doing and how you can make further improvements.

Now, normally writers, bloggers, or other authors won’t go into this next part since it’s quite a bit more negative and destructive. Perhaps your reliability is so shot to hell that it’s no longer worth trying to revive it. Perhaps the forgiveness you were seeking was withheld or the cost in action is too high to pay. In extreme cases it may be more beneficial for all involved, including you, to leave it all behind. Break your connections, burn what’s left of the bridge, and move on to the next chapter of your life. This path may find you in another job, another town or state, or possibly in another country altogether. From there you can start from scratch and build the reliability and trust that you know you’re capable of.

So where’s our bottom line? Your future self is lie and your reliability depends on your understanding. Since we don’t exist in any moment other than the present then relegating action to a future version of ourselves is pointless and ultimately destructive to our relationships. To this point, if you want to improve your reliability and the trust others place in you it is important to act on promises quickly and frequently. If, however, you find yourself bereft of trust from others, then it’s time to either put significant effort into repair, or turn and walk away. There only wrong action is inaction.

Back On Track After a Late Start – 3 Ways to Recover from Waking Up Late

It’s 5:30 in the morning and my Google Home is blaring an alarm at me. I crack open an eye and the room is still dark. “Hey Google, stop.” I manage to call out. My eyes close and another hour slips by. Now I’m behind schedule.

The early morning has gold in its mouth – Benjamin Franklin

Waking early is perhaps the most direct aspect of control you can wield in building your polymathic mindset. Mind you, what is early to me is downright crazy to another. Bottom line, we all know the benefits of waking early, whether we chose to follow the advice or not. So what do you do if this is your goal, and you fall short? Let’s take a look at my schedule for today.

I know, normally I try not to uber-schedule my day, but I’m in experimentation mode right now. So, what is the effect of that extra hour of sleep? Well, everything I wanted to get done from 5:30 to 6:30 get’s pushed back. Admittedly there’s not much between 5:30 and 6:30, but I really like my leisurely coffee, breakfast, shower, and other success habits that make the rest of my day. Instead, I’m rewarded with rushing, a quick dowse of hot water for my shower, and a choked down breakfast. Why? Well, I have to meet my 6:50 AM obligation of grocery shopping. Don’t scoff, I know you all do the same thing. Rush through the items you’ve missed in order to catch up to the schedule. The result? Pandemonium, anxiety, and next… Full blown freak out. So how do you stop it? Three steps:

  1. Halt the Freak Out
  2. Find Your Inner Stoic
  3. Get Ahead of Your Next Task

These steps are in a specific order. You cannot get a head of your next task or even find your inner stoic if you’re in full freak out mode.

Step 1: Halt the Freak Out (Objective: Recenter in the Now)

Alright… You overslept… You’ve managed a quick shower, burned your breakfast, attempted to make your bed, ate the burned breakfast, and now it’s 20 after 7, a full 30 minutes after you planned to start shopping. This is going to set back the entirety of your day, everything will need to be pushed back. The anxiety is building as you rush, and forget. You pull out of the driveway, pull back in, run inside to grab your wallet. It goes on and on (this actually happened to me this morning with an additional trip back home to grab my mask). How do you stop? Break the future rush and recenter in the now.

  • Take 3 deep breaths. Breath in, hold for ten seconds, breath out, hold for ten seconds, and repeat.
  • Look at your hands. Your hands are your most direct connection to the world. Touch a wall, or some other object to ground yourself.
  • Say out loud what it is you are doing, right now. If you are touching a wall say: “I am standing in the hallway, touching this wall.”

These steps sound silly, but it is the fastest way to stop a freak out centered on future (or even past) thoughts. Recenter yourself in the now.

Step 2: Find your Inner Stoic (Objective: Control Your Response)

Now that you’ve managed to find your center and your ground, it is time to put it into perspective. Accept that you overslept, and that the time is gone. You cannot control the past, but you can control your reaction to it.

  • Affirm to yourself: “I control my response to the world around me.”
  • Review your schedule for the current task and reschedule or cancel if necessary.
  • Look to the next item on your schedule.

Step 3: Get Ahead of your Next Task (Objective: Get Back on Track)

You’ve stopped freaking out and found your peace of mind. The next step is to get yourself back on track. Adjust your schedule to get ahead of the next task in line. By getting back on track the rest of your day will fall in line and you’ll find yourself just as productive as you would have been had you rolled out of bed on time.

What are your thoughts on oversleeping? How do you recover, or do you not recover at all?

The Present Moment

We are all forced to live in the present moment. Though for most it seems an irregularity and to some a conscious choice. It doesn’t matter what happened 17 years ago, 17 months ago, or even 17 seconds ago. We all live in the present moment. Does that mean that the past doesn’t matter? Of course not. The past happened, even though at the time it was the present moment. I try not to regret any of the countless moments from my past. Consciously I know it’ll do me no good. So for now I continue to live in the present moment and cherish the memories of past moments and thank all those who took part in them.

Why So Hungry?

Why so hungry?

If food is a means to power the body, then why should it be craved in excess? You get energy from food, but the energy is of different quality depending on the source. Others would argue that a calorie is a calorie, but that seems to demean the whole argument. There’s more to food and nutrition than the calorie.

Food should be enjoyed, but not so much that enjoyment is all there is. You enjoy your morning butter coffee and after the cup is gone, shall you drink another? The enjoyment is there, though your bowels will remind you later why it is such a bad idea. How about a glass of whiskey in the evening? You enjoy your whiskey on the rocks and the mild buzziness that follows. Shall you drink another? Again, the enjoyment is there, though your head (and likely your bowels) will remind you later why it is such a bad idea.

So why are you so hungry? The simple answer is, you’re not. There are deeper issues at play than being hungry. How many times have you reached for a morsel, a coffee, a donut, even fruit, and berries, when you’re not feeling the pangs of hunger? Too many times to count, too many times to remember. You’re not hungry, and you know you’re not. Again I ask: Why so hungry?