Honesty as a Strategy

People are liars. They just fucking lie all the time. “This is how much traffic I do.” “I’m actually went to high school with [insert celebrity] “I got in to this college, this college and this college, but I inexplicably decided to go to [lesser college]I’ve been with [this many] chicks” Most of the time, when people tell me anything about themselves, I just assume they are exaggerating–if not flat-out lying.

John Boyd forced all his acolytes to underestimate numbers when they were in their favor and be generous when they weren’t. And then when they were challenged, the real math only proved them more correct and made the bluff-caller look like an idiot. I figure that’s not a bad way to live your life. It’s certainly more moral to be honest. For instance, I don’t count any book as read if I didn’t go from cover to cover. I can’t say I run 5 miles a day anymore because I’ve reduced it to about 4 and started eating better–so you won’t see me say 5 unless that’s what the number is again. And as a added benefit, it pushes you to match your actions with the standing declarations you have made.

I assume most of the people who matter as as skeptical as I am. Because really, it’s just not probable that every single athlete I’ve ever talked to “won State.” [Really? What was the score of the New Hampshire Bowl?] So by being totally honest, you’re already being underestimated. And being overestimated is a short-term, ego-driven strategy.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.