I think that there are many virtues by which a man can be measured. We know what they are and we know the positive ones, the ones that we should strive for, when we see them. They are the positive character traits that we learn from our fathers, the Boy Scouts, positive roll models such as teachers, and even in the military. By behaving as a man should, we build our (good) reputation.
Think of the cowboy of fiction. He never lies, always keeps his word, works hard from sun up to sun down, defends the weak, and is always courteous to a lady. To call him out on any of these invites a punch in the nose or worse. Remember the quote "All a man's got is his reputation."
Punctuality is a good start, as is maintaining a constant state of readiness to help others. Of course, a truly high-caliber reputation as a friend, citizen and gentleman by its very nature takes a long time to build up.
Because this reputation takes a great deal of effort and time with the same people to create, I wonder if the hectic, constantly shifting nature of modern life has contributed to a decline in these traits, since it's harder to win and keep this reputation?
Excellent question! I have no answer! However, I suspect that it is true that the constant shifting has indeed contributed. For that matter, since my father was a pastor, I did not have roots as a child, moving every four or five years. My anthem was nothing about being a classy guy, but rather, Boston singing, "You'll forget about me after I've been gone". And with the changing of jobs and careers that so many people do now, no roots may lead to no significant reputation.
I've actually thought the same thing for quite some time now. In this day of intangibles and quicksilver relationships, it has become harder and harder for an individual to be shown in a long-run view. Those I know today, I may not next year. Maybe not even next month. it has done a number on devoloping one's reputation.
Always pay your debts, on time, and with no excuses. Live by your word, as said in a movie once, a man has only his word and his... I'm sure you follow. Try not to be a hypocrite. That one is hard, but if you can at least spot your own hypocrisy and change, than you're at least going to right direction.
Accept your licks where they are due is one also. Nothing worse than someone trying to weasel out of, or worse, scapegoat, something that was their mistake. You did it, own up to it. A true man knows that, at the end of the day, no one but himself is responsible for his actions.
And one I am only just realizing, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror. If you don't have any respect for yourself, it will show through in your actions. If someone can't respect your actions, they won't respect you. And with that, your reputation is in the mud.
I posted something elsewhere, but it got buried in the shuffle. Old cowboy wisdom (so it says): "The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning."
I would say a reputation comes from what you consistently do, whether it be good or bad. Now what kind of reputation is determined by effort, accomplishment and successes and how failures are handled. I try to do my best (effort), to learn what I can (educate myself) on the task at hand and gain knowledge and wisdom (listen to others with expereince) and how to apply it and admit my mistakes (humility). It sure didn't happen over night and there were a lot of stumbling blocks and trial and error along the way. It was a lot of hard work and at times unpleasant doing the right thing or standing up for the right thing but it paid off. I think part of that "manly" thing is being able to look inward and fix what is wrong and enjoy what is right and that is noticed in a fella's character and overlaps into his reputation. Finally, one of the things I learned was to keep my mouth shut and listen especially when I don't know much about the topic.