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NOTABLE! Fake It Until You Make It - Where Is The Integrity Line?

Hyrum

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I think to say that there is a metaphorical line that you would refuse to cross is a very dangerous assumption. People will respond to extraordinary situations in extraordinary ways, for good and bad. I saw a documentary called "Push" where a scenario was crafted to see if they could produce a situation that would result in an unsuspecting subject pushing someone off a roof. And while murdering another human might be one of those lines we tell ourselves we wouldn't cross, 3 out of the 4 people crossed that line.

I'm certain Bernie Madoff didn't wake up one morning and say to himself, "You know, I'm going to start a Ponzi scheme, because history has shown these to be good businesses and the math just works out." In his sentencing, he said the scheme started because he was trying to live us to his customers expectations of consistent returns, and when he had a bad month, fudged the numbers while telling himself that next month would more than make up for the difference. And then it turned from a snowball rolling down a mountain to an avalanche that buried him and wiped out billions of dollars.

I think it's also important to point out the "Bro-marketing" aspect of faking it until you make it. We've all seen the You-tube videos of the guys driving flashy cars and showing off their mansions. But how many actually own these assets, as opposed to leasing them or just renting them for the video shoot? Is that "just marketing", or something less ethical? (hint: it's not marketing).
 

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Blurred Lines, Summary.

It didn't start with fraud. It started with embellishment. When you score a touchdown, acting like you've been there before. It started with some hard money loans at egregious lending rates. If you could sit down with him today, he'd tell you he never intended for the thousands of people he left in his wake to get hurt. He was a gambler, and he always thought he would cover the bet.

At some point, the game changed. At some point, he made an intentional, conscious decision to transition from small lies to big ones. Remember that I said that the difference between $500 and $5,000 is a zero. If you will compromise your integrity in small ways, it becomes easier for the line to be nudged further and further.

Along the way, Tom lost his son. His son was murdered in Italy. I saw this as a pivotal moment for him. That was in 2004. I think he likely was already deep into the fraud at that point, but I think he decided to go for the gold. He was fully immersed in the deception when the FBI raid took place.

My point, and MJ's point for the concept of this thread was... it starts with a decision. High road or low road. Easy money or sweat and value. Integrity. The lust for more in the cases of Petters, Madoff, and small time frauds becomes the driving factor. You can't pray your way out of a Ponzai scheme. How many people got hurt? He didn't set out to hurt people, but operating the ultimate fake it until you make it... betting you can cover your tracks or your bets... cost way more than just him. It cost a little old lady her life savings. It costs employees their security. It costs businesses their futures. It cost thousands of people.

And that's why he sits in a 10x10 cell in Leavenworth for close to the rest of his life.

Where you draw the line is important, because money through deception is a slippery slope. Is it ok to cheat just a little bit? Lie just a little bit? Gamble just a little bit? Deceive just a little bit? How many drinks before you become an alcoholic? I know people who lie reflexively. They don't even know any more the difference between reality and their lies. It falls off their tongues so easily, that at some point in the past they started believing their own bullshit.

If you have to lie, you're doing something wrong. If you have to cheat, you're doing something wrong. If you have to steal, you're doing something wrong. If you prefer to lie, cheat and steal you're really doing something wrong. There are absolutes. There are clear lines. There are points of no return.

The opposite is to build. Value. Improve people's lives. Leave a legacy. Do something that fills a Need, in Scale. Make a difference. Make an impact. Help people. Take the high road. Do the right thing. Take a harder road that at the end of it, you can look back and be proud of the ground you covered. There is a better way. There is a right way. There is a higher way. Be a blessing to people. You can win it all and win it all with integrity. With purpose. You can leave a legacy that will be bigger than you. This thread is about finding the line, and being intentional about how you move from today forward. It's about things you decide not to compromise on in pursuit of wealth, fame and success. Find it. Make things happen for all the right reasons.




 

The Irish Guy

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I have a personal example from this forum where a small lie, which some people in this thread would consider marketing, lead to a lot of my time and money being wasted.

I was following a progress thread and the author got in some financial trouble and needed investment. I had cash to invest and my doorway pullup bar business was very similar in terms of both being physical products, both patented, both cost and sold for about the same and had similar distribution channels so I felt I'd understand and be able to add value.

In the progress thread the number of units sold on Black Friday was mentioned and it was about 2x what I had sold that day so I used that as a point of reference to estimate that the demand or opportunity was roughly 2x my business. I based my initial number crunching on that before I started the proper due diligence.

Unfortunately the sales figure listed was inaccurate to a factor of about 5x or 6x if I remember correctly. It wasn't until I had flown 3000 miles to visit the owner of the business and dove in deep into the other numbers that it became apparent, by that stage I was $3k-$4k in the hole in hard costs and down 2 weeks of my time.

The point is that a seemingly innocuous white lie by an excited entrepreneur exaggerating sales figures can have knock on effects no one would foresee.

Another side to this might have been that even if the other numbers did line up and I noticed that the owner had been making small little false statements on the forum I would have had serious second thoughts about investing, what other bigger lies might be hiding, can I trust this person with my money when they have the majority stake in the business...
 
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RobD88

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Personally, if I don’t have integrity, I have nothing.
I'm with @NateKruse on this one. Without integrity I have nothing. A man is only as good as his word. I learned a long time ago that if you always tell the truth you won't have to remember what stories you told people in an effort to impress them or cover the truth.

Though I think the "fake it until you make it" mantra has a different meaning. At least for me, it means to be strong and confident even when you are not really feeling that way. There is so much about the world of being an entrepreneur I do not know. Yet, I am boldly going where I have not gone before, learning as much as I can as fast as I can because the fear of not doing so is more devastating than any failures I may encounter. Thus, I am "faking it" past my apprehension and anxieties.

I am also not vane enough to ignore the fact that I don't know everything, humble enough to know I'm not better than anyone, and wise enough to know I do have my strengths that others may not have.

I feel that in the long run being true to who you are and what your abilities are will return way more reward than trying to pretend to be something greater. For me it's a marathon...not a sprint.
 
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MJ DeMarco

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Looks like "fake it until you make it" might be landing a lot of people in jail.

Elizabeth Holmes, Shrekli, the Fyre guy, it's raining bro-marketers!
 

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MJ DeMarco

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@Vigilante - holy shit Dave I had no idea you worked with Tom Petters, and you cut bait early.

Legendary story ... thread moved to NOTABLE.
 
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My side gig is a website that I run alone. I’ve hired some writers in the past, but otherwise it is just me. However, I don’t want the site to be a personal brand. This could be helping or hurting the business. Who knows, but that isn’t the point of this post.

When I write on the site I will often use the word “we” instead of “I”. It is kind of the Royal We. No fake photos of other employees or anything like that.

This is my white lie. This is me “faking it”. It still bugs me when I do it so I avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, making the brand a personal brand (I) bugs me so much more.

I feel mostly ok with it because I’m not selling the company to be something huge. I’m not trying to change opinions or fool people into thinking the website is something it isn’t. The about page says that I made it, but even that makes me cringe. I just don’t want to be the face of the site (for better or worse). I’m simply not Pat Flynn or Gary V.

I know this is very small compared to the other examples, but this is my little ethical dilemma I sometimes think about and is in line with the photo example MJ references.

*end confession*
You deserve to rot in a jail cell!

I'm in exactly the same situation. I run a B2B online beauty business and have no interest in putting my face or name out there. Until 2 weeks ago I ran everything myself but would often use 'we' on the website and even when emailing customers. Technically my wife does test products and make recommendations on what to stock so that's my weak justification.
 
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You deserve to rot in a jail cell!

I'm in exactly the same situation. I run a B2B online beauty business and have no interest in putting my face or name out there. Until 2 weeks ago I ran everything myself but would often use 'we' on the website and even when emailing customers. Technically my wife does test products and make recommendations on what to stock so that's my weak justification.
Love your profile pic.
 

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G-Man

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@Vigilante Thanks for your story. It's helpful to know other people have had brushes with that kind of person. I was actually relatively high up in an organization that did things they shouldn't have done with millions of dollars of bank money. My role was one of unwitting useful idiot. I saw red flags, but those were glossed over by the money we seemed to be making, and the personal charisma of the company owners. There ended up being no criminal trial, and fortunately, I had been recording my conversations and copying my emails to a thumb drive for a couple months before things blew up.

The owner of the company tried to pin it on me by publicly accusing me in front of the other employees of stealing. Fortunately, he had been so blatantly lavish with company money, and I'm such a miser, that his accusation wasn't even remotely credible.

Here's a few things I learned:
  • It didn't start out as a lie. It started out as a couple guys who hit a bump in their business, had a bunch of opportunities ahead, and knew if they could just get capital, they could gloss over the previous losses. This took the form of "exaggerations" and "over-simplifications" when closing a massive loan. Again, one of the guys I don't think to this day is a "bad" guy. But, even "good" guys have to have a barometer for their own bullshit.
  • Don't expect people's lifestyle to indicate the health of the business you work for. In fact, people that run schemes like that will often get more lavish as things are getting worse, because they know it's reassuring to their employees.
  • No one is your friend. There is no honor amongst thieves. The boss that lavished you with praise and bonuses will threaten to have you locked up. The coworkers that you hang out with on the weekends and know your family, they'll suddenly get amnesia. They'll toe the company line just to keep their paltry paychecks coming for a while. When the court day comes, you'll be sitting outside on a bench all alone, and possibly terrified.
I don't have any philosophical thoughts on fake it till you make it, but I have pragmatic ones, as a 32 year with prematurely grey hair. Radical honesty. I try to tell absolute truth, and I try to work with people that appreciate it. I avoid people when the reality doesn't match the talk. For me, there's just no other way to be. Again, not for philosophical or moral reasons. For grey hair at 32 reasons.
 

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When I write on the site I will often use the word “we” instead of “I”. It is kind of the Royal We. No fake photos of other employees or anything like that.
You should always use "we" when writing as the company.

Only use "I" when writing from a personal perspective.

Acme, Inc. (a 1 man company) won't write, "I, Acme, Inc., am happy to release this new dynamite."

It just sounds weird.
 
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You should always use "we" when writing as the company.

Only use "I" when writing from a personal perspective.

Acme, Inc. (a 1 man company) won't write, "I, Acme, Inc., am happy to release this new dynamite."

It just sounds weird.
Agreed. A company is an entity, not an individual.
 

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Agreed. A company is an entity, not an individual.
Damn! And just today over university accounting tutorials, we were discussing the separation of a company from the owner in terms of taxation and legal lashings. What a coincidence!
 

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Jesse Dean

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I faked it until I made it. I am not a bad person. Am I bad for doing it? Dunno.. but it depends on your own moral compass.
Too many circumstantial variables.. too many for a simple answer. Good read ^
 

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@Vigilante incredible story - thank you for this post.
It just goes to show how slippery a slope telling white lies are.

"The only thing bigger than who we are... is who we say we are."
This will stick for a long time...

Another way to look at this could be, what happens if you were ‘found out’.
...and this is an incredible litmus test for authenticity.

Maybe it's been covered in this thread, but one thing I'm curious about is
Embellishing Stories for the Sake of Simplicity, Not necessarily evil intent.

As an example:
When people ask how the business started, I often reference my first client.

"A Theology Professor at XYZ Ivy League School."

Well, that's not exactly the full story.
I was actually a subcontractor under someone else,
who had said Theology Professor as a client.

Another Example:
When people ask how the business is going.

"It's Great! I have 4 people working for me now."

Well, that's true. But not exactly the full story.
Those 4 people are all subcontractors that work WAY less than part-time with me.
In both cases, it's a bit of an embellishment to make me look good. But it's the only way I've known to convey the health of my business in casual conversation.

The question is: how do you make your presentations simple enough for others to grasp, without subconsciously embellishing stories and making yourself look bigger than you actually are?

You run the risk of Embellishment on one hand, but giving the full story is long-winded and you'll lose people's attention.

(p.s. Originally posted here, missing this thread entirely.)
 

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I had this exact same conversation with a friend who is not really a member of this forum and I shared with him about what a scam Tai Lopez is and the amount of fake gurus out there. We agreed that the worse offenders were University/College professors and that most of their knowledge in business is purely hypothetical. We agreed that people were making fortunes pretending to be rich.

We agreed that faking it till you make it was unethical BUT the conversation took a weird turn which we started to question that belief.

Phil Jackson, Freddie Roach, and Scotty Bowman are one of the greatest coaches of all time in their respective sports, HOWEVER, they SUCKED or had ZERO experience playing their sport professionally (Bowman). They were able to lead their teams to several championships and world titles because they were able to diagnose problems and find solutions.

On the other hand, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, coached unsuccessfully. Even though they were great at playing, they were probably missing some elements of being a great coach.

I had some interesting business ideas that I wanted to move forward with but chose not to because I am not an "expert" but I truly believe that I could add value by adding simple steps with a plan of action and removing the confusion associated with the idea.

Question for everyone:Is it unethical to provide information/advice if you are not an "expert" and profit from it? For example, should you start a bodybuilding E-Book/website/app even though you are not a bodybuilder but know how its done?
 

WJK

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I had this exact same conversation with a friend who is not really a member of this forum and I shared with him about what a scam Tai Lopez is and the amount of fake gurus out there. We agreed that the worse offenders were University/College professors and that most of their knowledge in business is purely hypothetical. We agreed that people were making fortunes pretending to be rich.

We agreed that faking it till you make it was unethical BUT the conversation took a weird turn which we started to question that belief.

Phil Jackson, Freddie Roach, and Scotty Bowman are one of the greatest coaches of all time in their respective sports, HOWEVER, they SUCKED or had ZERO experience playing their sport professionally (Bowman). They were able to lead their teams to several championships and world titles because they were able to diagnose problems and find solutions.

On the other hand, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, coached unsuccessfully. Even though they were great at playing, they were probably missing some elements of being a great coach.

I had some interesting business ideas that I wanted to move forward with but chose not to because I am not an "expert" but I truly believe that I could add value by adding simple steps with a plan of action and removing the confusion associated with the idea.

Question for everyone:Is it unethical to provide information/advice if you are not an "expert" and profit from it? For example, should you start a bodybuilding E-Book/website/app even though you are not a bodybuilder but know how its done?
You can -- and maybe you will be temporarily successful... BUT, you'll be like the childless person telling parents how to raise their kids. Until you've walked a mile in their shoes, you don't know what and/or how you would do it. Every trade, discipline and skill set have its own secrets and shortcuts. You don't really know that inside knowledge until you become an "expert." It's not something that you can learn out of a book or video.
www.wjkbusinessbuzz.com
 

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We agreed that faking it till you make it was unethical BUT the conversation took a weird turn which we started to question that belief.

Phil Jackson, Freddie Roach, and Scotty Bowman are one of the greatest coaches of all time in their respective sports, HOWEVER, they SUCKED or had ZERO experience playing their sport professionally (Bowman). They were able to lead their teams to several championships and world titles because they were able to diagnose problems and find solutions.

On the other hand, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, coached unsuccessfully. Even though they were great at playing, they were probably missing some elements of being a great coach.


Coaching a team and playing a sport are two vastly different skill sets. It is the same as the amazing employee, but terrible CEO scenario.

One is a team member responsible for their specialized role (assigned by the manager/coach) on the team and follows orders given to them.

The other leads the team, develops strategy, and gives orders.

I had some interesting business ideas that I wanted to move forward with but chose not to because I am not an "expert" but I truly believe that I could add value by adding simple steps with a plan of action and removing the confusion associated with the idea.

Question for everyone: Is it unethical to provide information/advice if you are not an "expert" and profit from it? For example, should you start a bodybuilding E-Book/website/app even though you are not a bodybuilder but know how its done?
If you are honest about your experience, then I don't see any issue other than people not caring about your opinion.
 

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WJK

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Coaching a team and playing a sport are two vastly different skill sets. It is the same as the amazing employee, but terrible CEO scenario.

One is a team member responsible for their specialized role (assigned by the manager/coach) on the team and follows orders given to them.

The other leads the team, develops strategy, and gives orders.



If you are honest about your experience, then I don't see any issue other than people not caring about your opinion.
I agree. BUT, he could take the journey to become an expert, while documenting it along the way. That's a lot more interesting. And, more important, that path is NOT fraught with the fear that he will be found out. The human struggle to achieve is one of our classic archetypes. It is known as the "hero's journey." That way he could explore and share his fears and challenges.
Being an expert has its challenges. It is many times hard to explain what you know to someone else. They don't have the same frame of reference. Many things work differently than they appear from the outside. This wrinkle in perception makes the expert's job harder and brings his knowledge into question.
 

WJK

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Coaching a team and playing a sport are two vastly different skill sets. It is the same as the amazing employee, but terrible CEO scenario.

One is a team member responsible for their specialized role (assigned by the manager/coach) on the team and follows orders given to them.

The other leads the team, develops strategy, and gives orders.



If you are honest about your experience, then I don't see any issue other than people not caring about your opinion.
I agree. BUT, he could take the journey to become an expert, while documenting it along the way. That's a lot more interesting. And, more important, that path is NOT fraught with the fear that he will be found out. The human struggle to achieve is one of our classic archetypes. It is known as the "hero's journey." That way he could explore and share his fears and challenges.
Being an expert has its challenges. It is many times hard to explain what you know to someone else. They don't have the same frame of reference. Many things work differently than they appear from the outside. This wrinkle in perception makes the expert's job harder and brings his knowledge into question.
 

Sergio DLG

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Hi forum,

I haven't made a proper introduction of myself, I promise I will do that soon but in the meantime I have this.

I'm a Software Engineer from MX and have been doing this professionally the last 11 years, while walking in this path I've worked with several startups some of them grew into successful businesses and some other stayed in mediocre-land.

The patterns I see are:

The successful ones always developed a plan or process that includes: staying humble, work hard to know the client/user needs, invest time/effort on solving the right problem, develop methods for problem discovery, perform team building strategies to reinforce accountability and empathy, etc.

The mediocre ones works like this: Build an MVP, hire random developers and build things on top of that MVP (MVPs should be thrown to the thrash once its serves its purpose which is market validation), they are always trying to land more investors, they always suck-up all invested money, they don't have a plan or a development process and don't care to develop one even though that they are a technology company, they check how many lines of code you wrote in how much time instead of the implementation of your solution, they delegate the work of defining business rules to developers, when they run out of money then they fake what their product solves and how great it is (which is not) to get more money. Eventually nobody wants to work with them and they close and start with another startup with the same ideology all over again.

And that's why I think "Fake it till you make it" is BS if you apply that mindset to a company.
 

spreng

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Here's a different perspective: I think the "fake it till you make it mentality" is good up to a point, and here's why. The corporation that I worked at was full of this type of person, but what happens when all of middle management is doing it? Numbers fall, people get fired, and employees suffer because these managers are unwilling to admit their incompetence.

It's really not a great trait for employees to have, and it kills business.... but as an entrepreneur....
 

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It's really not a great trait for employees to have, and it kills business.... but as an entrepreneur....
For an entrepreneur, that type of behavior has the same traps. Anyone in charge must know what they are doing in order to be effective. The injection of too much "top-down BS" kills a lot of businesses.
 

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Fake it until you make it? Depends on how you do it.

If you are improving your service and product fanatically and meanwhile mixing your marketing messages with some white lies of slight exaggeration, without lying anything MATERIAL about your product features, that is basically the BEST case studies of the presently successful people.

If you are promising over the sky and not delivering that’s basically digging a grave in the age of internet.

Don’t entertain me nonsense of radical honesty. It is not going to work because in a world that everyone telling bullshit speaking the truth will make you an outcast and people will see you as a mentally ill child. People want to hear the CORRECT answer not the real answer.

Let me give you a very real example in the case of job hiring. A manager interviews two candidate in a tough economy and ask them why they choose to join this company despite being “overqualified”.

Candidate A says: Well I intend to go to another industry and it is too competitive and I am not getting an interview. Hence I am applying for your company and If I get the opportunity I will put in my 100 percent.

Candidate B says:” I like this industry because money and prestige are not the
Main concern. I believe in the value and direction that the firm is going, and I personally like the way you guys do business. I have a childhood hobby that is also in line with what you do. This can give me challenges and opportunity to learn thing I am really interested in.”

The manager knows candidate B is saying absolutely rubbish but will no doubt hire candidate B. The rationale is simple. The fact that candidate B bothers to make up a story to pretend an interest shows that he is more serious in them. Everyone knows that you cant get a better offer thats why you are here.

I am definitely not advocating lies over truth. I am advocating speaking the CORRECT ANSWER which sometimes might not be the truth.
 

LittleWolfie

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Jun 28, 2018
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Holbeach Hurn
It is not going to work because in a world that everyone telling bullshit speaking the truth will make you an outcast and people will see you as a mentally ill child. People want to hear the CORRECT answer not the real answer.
Seems to work for Germany, telling bullshit is what children do.
 

LittleWolfie

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Jun 28, 2018
720
382
147
Holbeach Hurn
Germany is known for having bad service.
By American Standards.

The Germans think American waitstaff are terribly rude, they are always bugging you when you want to be left alone to eat your meal in peace. They ask How are you? and smile at people who are not their friends.

Walmart lost billions because the Germans hated all the forced smiling and would pay more to avoid it.

That is why so many of the foreigners in Germany go to Irish bars or what have you with similar culture, if there is an area in USA, with enough German visitors, I bet glum faced staff would do well.

After all why else would no one offer SUCS in Germany and out-compete anyone?
 

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