The context in which people observe you—the people you sit next to, the rooms you occupy—has an enormous impact on their perceptions of you. This is why politicians are so particular about the symbolism that surrounds them.
When Michael Vick first started playing for the Eagles, he commuted from his Virginia home. He hung out with the same people in the same places as before his conviction. His career started turning around only after he moved to Philadelphia. Once in a new context, people's perceptions and his behavior began to shift. Is your context—your office, where you eat lunch, where you meet, where you sit—communicating what you want people to know about you? Does your after-work behavior complement your business persona?
Over the last week I have used the story of Michael Vick to discussed four ways to help your career. By working on these—guarding your story, picking your plot, getting noticed, and controlling your backdrop—you can have a profound impact on how people perceive you and on the trajectory of your career. These principles can explain why stars like Michael Vick, Tom Cruise, Carly Fiorina, Michael Phelps, or Chris Brown fall and why some of them rise again.