Let's be honest. Lying works.
The best lies are true
I’ve worked in business my whole life, the kind of businesses where you need to pitch, you need to sell, you need to close the deal. And you do what you have to do, including lie.
Sometimes it’s a small lie, like yeah, we can do that, when you really mean yeah, we have the skills to learn how to do that. And sometimes it’s a really big lie, like yeah, these folks were our clients and we’re really good friends, when the truth is you met a guy on a plane and exchanged business cards.
The number one goal of every business is to close the deal and sell. Without the sale nothing means nothing.
I’ve had employees look at me sideways when I’m pitching. They don’t like it when I lie in a pitch. I don’t like it either, but I do it, and any businessman who says he hasn't lied to get a gig is … lying.
Rules of lying
There’s some rules here though.
1. You better be ready to deliver. If you lie and fail, you’re toast.
2. If you get busted you be better be ready to own up to it, or else your rep goes down the toilet and it can be really hard to recover.
There’s super-liars out there. They make business really hard to do. They have mastered the art of the lie on the lie and the lie about the lie and the rapid fire lying that causes so much chaos they believe they then have created opportunity. I know some really successful people who are incredibly committed pathological liars. But there’s a real downside to these super-liars. They hurt people.
Lying of course doesn't work in all jobs. An ad guy, or a real estate salesman, let’s face it, lying is part of the job description in those jobs. A doctor however, nobody wants a doctor to lie.
American culture has turned the lie in an art form
I’ve been thinking about all this because we’re drowning in lies in our culture. As beautiful as the internet and social media are they’ve unleashed an endless tsunami of lies. Truth itself is drowning. Facts are transactional. I have no idea what sort of word we’re building when our world is built on a foundation of lies and fear of facts. But it doesn’t feel like a world with much of a future.
Not all lies are equal
We need to come to terms with some things if we stand a chance of moving forward. Lying is part of the human condition. There are transactions where people lie. Lying and good storytelling go hand in hand. Lying can be a positive choice in certain circumstances, like safety. Being shocked that a lease agent is telling white lies is not as good as a good dose of salt on everything they say. We expect certain types of people to lie and it works better for us just to know it’s happening and largely discount them as people to trust.
Truth is non-negotiable
Our guard must be up around one central issue. The truth is not transactional. We need to stand by the truth. We must marshal our facts. And we must, if need be, hold liars accountable as a result.
When must liars be held accountable? If they hurt people. If they lie for power. If the lie becomes abou the lie itself. If a liar defends a lie with another lie and on and on, then we must step in and stand for truth.