The Differences Between Perception and Reality

I was reading Michael Lewis’s amazing essay “Jonathan Lebed’s Extracurricular Activities” yesterday (in The New Kings of Non Fiction) and I realized that this paragraph basically explains how Trust Me I’m Lying happened. Jonathan managed to accidentally see the inherent problems, and inherent manipulations of the market, whereas I saw it in the media, but the point–and the realization–are fundamentally the same.

“Still! That a fourteen-year-old boy, operating essentially in a vacuum, would walk away from a severe grilling by six hostile bureaucrats and jump right back into the market–how did that happen? It occurred to me, as it had occurred to Jonathan’s lawyer, that I had taken entirely the wrong approach to getting the answer. The whole point of Jonathan Lebed was that he had invented himself on the Internet. The Internet had taught him how hazy the line was between perception and reality. When people could see him, they treated him as they would treat a fourteen year old boy. When all they saw were his thoughts on financial matters, they treated him as if he were a serious trader. On the Internet, where no one could see who he was, he became who he was.”

Now that I think about it, this is probably a similar awakening that a lot of “digital natives” went through early on in their lives. It will be interesting to see how this changes our culture and lives.

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.