Friday, February 6, 2015

Life of a Lie

Sometimes, I'm a slow learner, but I do learn.

I know people who have fake black belts. Yes, they do have a certificate, but it was given because they donated a large amount of money to some organization or signed up all of their students as members. They aren't any better at arm bars than my granddaughter's fish, Nemo, and he doesn't even have arms. Deep down, they must know they are fakes, and *I* certainly do.

I know people who have fake degrees. Some of them call themselves Dr. although they never finished their dissertations. Others have a certificate from the Fly-By-Night School of Witchcraft that says they are a Doctor of Heebie-Jeebie Medicine or some bullshit.

They know they didn't take any real courses.

In both cases, though, I have had people say  to me,

Yes, I know the organization is a complete fake but I think that I am good enough/ smart enough that I deserve to be a doctor/ black belt/ minister.

Slowly, I have realized that associating with those people is NEVER a good thing. They are telling lies. There is a reason that degrees, black belts and other credentials matter - because they provide some objective, external standard of our awesomeness.

Lots of people believe themselves to be the greatest in the world. Then, we have a competition and one of them wins. Some of those people who thought they were best in the world lost in the first round. Some never even qualified for the tournament. What difference does it make if they go around telling people that they won?

The difference is that it lets you know telling lies doesn't bother them.

Everyone tells lies sometimes, right? They blame traffic for being late when the truth is that they had completely forgotten they were supposed to meet with you until they got your text.

The difference is that if they are claiming a degree they don't possess to get people to take their classes, become their clients or believe their arguments then their LIFE is based on a lie.

The same is true if they are addicted to alcohol or drugs, a compulsive gambler, having an affair.

In all of those cases, they will need to lie over and over and over.

"Where did you get your degree?"

Must be answered by a lie.

"What year did you win the national championships?"

A lie.

"How many drinks did you have?"

A lie.

"Why weren't you at the Hall of Fame dinner?"

More lies.

What difference does it make? It make several differences, actually.
  • If someone around you is lying about important parts of their life, as well as trivial details to support those lies, it makes lying seem normal. When people are around you, it's easy to let yourself start thinking, "Everyone does it."  Let me assure you, NOT everyone does,
  • When you hang with liars, it drives the good people away. There is guilt by association, when it's just assumed you are a liar, too. Then, there are the people who think you are probably a good person, but they don't want to spend time with a bunch of frauds that hang out with you.
  • Statisticians know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. We already know they lie about both important and trivial things. It is only a matter of time before those people lie about things that are important to you.
If you find yourself asking,

What difference will it make to Ignatz Billy Joe who claims to be Ph.D. in Lunar Geology and a seventh-degree black belt in every martial art ever invented if I quit taking free tickets to sit next to him at the Annual Hall of Fame dinner?

The answer is that it may make no difference to him, but it  will likely make a difference to YOU.

A young person of my acquaintance asked,

Doesn't that bother you, though, that someone can go through life lying about their credentials, pretending to have a Ph.D. or a gold medal or a ninth degree black belt and get away with it?

The answer is, that they don't get away with it.

First of all, unlike people like me (and, I hope, you), they have to worry constantly about getting found out. Did anyone at dinner catch that they mentioned living in Iowa in 1986 when they had told people at dinner last week that they were in medical school in 1986? Do any of those people know each other? They've been telling people that they won the 1970 National Championships in Ukraine but now those records are on the Internet. Will anyone they know see them?

Most of all, as my friend, Serge says,

Those people have the worst punishment that you can imagine. They have to wake up in the morning and be them.


Geoff Langdale said...

How far does the rabbit hole go with pathological liars?

Maybe this far:

That is, live a lie and kill your entire family when threatened with discovery.

I don't mean to make a slippery slope argument but to me this is the natural end point of a narcissistic pathological lying tendency and a good thing to keep in your mind when you start peeling back the layers on someone's fake {startup career, PhD, 9th degree black belt, ...}.

Marvin Shealy said...

Outstanding post and right on point.

mike ripple said...

And people wonder why so many of us tend to leave the population centers, strip off the layers of social monotony and embrace the equanimity of solitude. This is true wisdom.

antonia black said...

Some people are born to lie

Anonymous said...

The first part of this post reminded me of the Kodokan Judo Institute. Some people label it a "McDojo" because they advertise a program in which a black belt may be attained within one year. This is true and possible but it isn't easy or simple by any means.

I'm just curious, would you consider a student who achieved their 1st degree black belt at the Kodokan in one year as equal to a student who earned their 1st degree black belt attending their hometown dojo for 4 years?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Anonymous -
It's not how long they took to earn a black belt, it is what they know. I'd be very skeptical of anyone who earned a black belt in a year. It took Ronda 5 years. It took me 8, including a year in Japan. I wonder, how great is that person that it only took a year?

Anonymous said...

Some people are smart and use lies as a way to prey on people's expectations. In effect, they employ a form a reverse-psychology just in case. By toying with people's perceptions of them, their enemies are confused and when they're confused, they cannot be prepared. Niccolo Machiavelli in the West and Sun Tzu in the East both wrote the books on deceptive warfare. Honesty may be virtuous, but it's not always effective. Deception, provided that it's successful, is always effective. As Sun Tzu once wrote "if you are weak, look strong; if you are strong, look weak", some people just choose to look weak by pretending to be the weak looking strong.

Having credible credentials may also lead to self-deception. I've known some world champion kickboxers who lost a bar fight and ended up with a nasty scar across their face made by a knife attack. They almost lost their lives to someone who probably wouldn't last 5-seconds in the ring with them, but why? Because they let their heads fill up with their previous accomplishments and were caught off-guard in a crucial moment. Sometimes it's not always about who's bigger, stronger, and well-trained. Sometimes, it's the one who's willing to do the most. Sports will not prepare you for this. Normally, most instructors whether it be Judo, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, or whatever have never been in a real fight and know nothing about the real world. Sure, some of them may have been in one or two, but who were they against? A bunch of people who couldn't punch their way out of a paper bag.

The need to brag is a way of guarding oneself against criticism. It's a continuation of a Western tradition of piousness that dates back to the Middle Ages with petty competition among the noble classes. I have found that most people who measure their significance by a degree or by credentials are some of the most insecure people around. They need to feel special by comparing themselves to others, because they can't find genuine self-worth.

As someone who's accomplished what I want to accomplish in life, I understand the hustle it takes to get the top. It's not pretty and you don't look pretty doing it. The people who took the safe route always jump on you when you're going through the hardest times. That guy who you knew in high school or college who thought you were crazy for your idea, your brother-in-law or sister-in-law who always gives you hard time every time they see you about your choices is insecure and petty. They want to compete with you because they're uncertain of their own life choices. They'll kick you while you're down until you're six-feet under. I told myself that I was never going to be like them when I succeed. After all, if their lives are SO good, then why are they so focused on me? Then, when you succeed, they feel like idiots so they cover it up by acting like it was their idea or that they were trying to help. "I was just messing with you because I knew it would motivate you, but I always believed in you," they use to justify themselves.

I don't care if people lie as long as they plan on making those lies a reality and actively work at it. If someone wants to fake it until they make it, I let them have it. In my opinion, the petty culture of our day-and-age makes it justifiable.

Anonymous said...

It took me 10-years to earn my black sash in Kung Fu and it wasn't easy. Each sash test was 7-hours long on a Saturday morning. It was repeating the forms we learned over-and-over again and when I got to high yellow sash I had to spar with two black belts while exhausted after 7-hours. When I got to orange sash, I had to teach the little dragons class for a certain numbers of hours before I could even take the next test.

Contrary to the criticisms of Kung Fu by MMA, we do spar full contact. Kung Fu has its own tournaments and championships just like Muay Thai, Judo, Taekwondo, and Boxing have their own respective tournaments. We have everything MMA has except a cage or a ring. We fight on a platform called a "Lei Tai" and we strike, throw, slam, punch, kick, knee, elbow, trap palm strikes, and all manner of striking. The tournaments were very tough and I would never want anyone with only a year of training to enter them. I'd prefer if they entered Olympic level Judo. At least then if they get thrown once and manage to roll with the motion, the fight would be over. In Kung Fu the fight doesn't stop after one throw or one pin. If it goes to the ground the competitors wrestle and ground-and-pound until the referee breaks it up, then the ref directs them to the middle of the stage and they start striking again.