You Are What Your Record Says You Are

That’s Bill Parcells on the left, giving a Trump-esque power handshake to Bill Belichick, back

Want to continue reading this and the other 1,500+ essays you won't find anywhere else?

Already a subscriber? log in here

To learn more about Epsilon Theory and be notified when we release new content sign up here. You’ll receive an email every week and your information will never be shared with anyone else.


  1. In my experience, which is as a software engineer, there are three types of workers I’ve come across.

    The first type, blue collar workers, do what they’re told. Whether they’re on an assembly line, fixing power lines or plumbing. Their boss or the framework of their job dictates what they do.

    The second type, corporate professionals, are taught by the corporate world, that it’s best to be passive-aggressive. Making mistakes is worse than doing nothing. Being very busy and taking no risks is the way to succeed.

    The third type live by their skills and the record those skills produce. Whether they’re a trader, an engineer in a startup or an independent contractor, they have to produce in measurable ways. As long as their skills and abilities are relevant and productive, they are paid what they ask and go where they please.

    I would guess 85-to-90% of the people I encounter, fall in the first two types. And they are fearful about the future, for good reason. However, if you own your record and more importantly, the skills to produce in the future, you can’t wait for the future and it looks really good.

    Clear eyes, open hearts.

  2. I would have said you own your own scars - because at least that way you have at least some self determination of who you are.

  3. I like to believe that we own our actions which, in turn, produces our record. However, we don’t “own” (or have much control over) how these actions are perceived by others. The historical documentation of your actions, through the lens of a narrative, is varied and complex from memories of friends/families, to strangers that interact with you, to your overall reputation at your work, to what we have now with social media. Such a disconnect between your actions and the perception of those actions can be abused. But I believe with enough insight into ourselves and others, we can take the appropriate precautions to avoid egregious abuse of our record.

  4. Much better said than my clumsy effort. Thanks

  5. It must drive the metaphysics philosophers and the deep-truth seekers nuts, but yup, here on earth, in the somewhat-free and developed world - in many (but not all) ways, you are what your public record says you are, but good luck with that.

    If you can really control your public record in this world, you have a talent (maybe or maybe not a morality and maybe or maybe not a talent for what that record avers, but a valuable talent none the less).

    For the rest of us, there are two records - the one that’s out there in multiple ways in multiple docs (ever had a 360 review [a sincerely soul-draining event even if you do “well”] / a Myers Briggs test / a Performance Development Plan / [to Ben’s point] a record managing money [numbers can do handstands when skillfully, um, presented]) and the second “other” record that those who know you - sincerely, deeply know you - attribute to you.

    I don’t have the talent to control my public record (it’s not bad and it’s not interesting to most - and early in my career, as a prop trader, I did control it, but when my career morphed into being a manager of traders, strategists, analysts, etc., I became a cog in a corporate machine) - but I take great pride in the “other” record that those who know me and those who work with me have of me - it’s called a reputation.

    I’ve carried my public record into interviews, client meetings, presentations, etc., and sometimes those docs are focussed on and sometimes they sit handed out and unread especially if enough people in those meetings know my reputation and not some (channelling Ben) cartoon of my record on a piece of paper (run multiple businesses inside large financial organizations and tell me your recored on paper isn’t a cartoon).

    So, yes, in a way, you are your public “official” record and - depending on the path you want your life and career to take - that can be the determinant. But you also have another record - your reputation, and that can also do a lot for you.

  6. I’m in your third category and a fair amount of my cleverest work is protected as trade secrets by previous employers. That’s one way not to own your record.
    The people I’ve worked with whose major skill is playing Professional! are picking up pennies in front of a steamroller, but that can go on for a long time and can be frustrating to watch.

  7. Playing Professional! is insightful. Owning your record is one way to categorize people, another is ‘pain to replace’. For example, there’s no pain to replace a blue-collar worker. You can swap out on an assembly line worker in minutes or if one Uber driver goes off, they’re replaced without anyone even knowing.

    Contrast that to someone who owns their record, i.e. is painful to replace. In this situation, it is the firm that is hurt by the person leaving and it will take the firm months or years to find a replacement. For example, Dan Marino left the Miami Dolphins in 1999 and they still haven’t found a replacement.

    Maybe Landvermesser can’t take his record with him, but how long would it take your firm to replace you? How long it would take you to find an equivalent opportunity? If it would take your firm ten-times as long to find someone and get them equivalently productive; you own your record, even if corporate frameworks dictate that you can’t take it with you.

    The other category is corporate professional. They dress and act a certain way, but are they difficult to replace or are they playing Professional!? If they’re playing Professional!, maybe it takes a day or a week to replace them.

    Owning your record is one way to think about this, pain to replace is another.

  8. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I like this notion of “pain to replace”, although in the absence of a transportable record it’s a source of leverage with your current organization, not a source of leverage outside your organization. But you’re right, this “pain to replace” is a very real thing.

    It’s also a very misunderstood thing. I’ve known SOOOOO many people who have mistaken their seat for themselves. They become so accustomed to the external respect and the internal perks that their seat provides, that they come to believe that they have earned this respect and these perks from their own identity. Then when they leave the firm, they quickly discover that they were not terribly difficult to replace at all, and that all of those markers of respect and reward suddenly vanish. You see this most keenly and most frequently from people who have been sitting in an allocator’s seat for a long time!

  9. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I’d like to believe this is true, but in my experience there is such a mistrust of personal narratives (and for good reason!) that it is necessary to have an external source of authenticity to project that narrative. I agree that there are work-arounds for not “owning your record”, but it sure makes life more difficult.

    There’s a societal aspect to all this that will be the centerpiece of the final-final chapter in the Things Fall Apart series, namely that their are distributed ledger technologies and personal ID/encryption technologies widely available today that can make “owning your record” a political right.

  10. Now I think I understand your (conundrum?) reference to the Parcels quote. ‘Your record’ can be your result as viewed from within or from an external point of view or combined. The same result can be recorded similarly or differently depending on an outside observer’s frame of reference. While you do ‘own’ your own view of your own result, you may chose to project something different to an outside observer. Meanwhile, an outside observer owns the record he or she recorded of your result, but you may not (have access), and they can project that or something different back to you or others as well. (Maybe this is why people become mathematicians :wink:

Continue the discussion at the Epsilon Theory Forum

1 more reply


Avatar for bhunt Avatar for ameyer32 Avatar for Mkahn22 Avatar for Landvermesser Avatar for ehc11375 Avatar for Victor_K Avatar for fvc

The Latest From Epsilon Theory


This commentary is being provided to you as general information only and should not be taken as investment advice. The opinions expressed in these materials represent the personal views of the author(s). It is not investment research or a research recommendation, as it does not constitute substantive research or analysis. Any action that you take as a result of information contained in this document is ultimately your responsibility. Epsilon Theory will not accept liability for any loss or damage, including without limitation to any loss of profit, which may arise directly or indirectly from use of or reliance on such information. Consult your investment advisor before making any investment decisions. It must be noted, that no one can accurately predict the future of the market with certainty or guarantee future investment performance. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Statements in this communication are forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements and other views expressed herein are as of the date of this publication. Actual future results or occurrences may differ significantly from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, and there is no guarantee that any predictions will come to pass. The views expressed herein are subject to change at any time, due to numerous market and other factors. Epsilon Theory disclaims any obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements or views expressed herein. This information is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. This commentary has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. Epsilon Theory recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.