Self Confidence

A friend of mine told me a story this morning about a time that he said he had the money when he did not and then he went out and found it.

It reminds me of Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School where he tells story after story of signing big deals that he had no ability to pay for and then going out and funding them.

Mark and my friend both knew they could get the money even though they did not actually have it.

When I was in college I needed a job and I found one programming in Fortran. I didn’t know Fortran. I had some cursory knowledge of Basic.

I went for the interview anyway and when they asked me if I knew Fortran, I said “yeah, I’ve done some Fortran programming” and then asked them if I could take the source code home for the weekend.

So they printed out the source code on a dot matrix printer on folds after folds of large format printer paper. I took that pile of paper home and opened it up.

It turned out that the postdoc who had written the Fortran program had literally commented every single line of code.

On one line was the code and on the next line was a comment that said something like “this tells the laser to move to the right by the amount entered.”

I smiled and knew that I could maintain that Fortran program and in the process teach myself the language. And that is what I did and partially paid my way through MIT too.

I am not advocating lying but that is what I did and that is what my friend did. But we lied with the self-confidence that we could pull it off.

There is a fine line between self-confidence and recklessness and I have been able to project the former without landing on the latter in my career. I think you need at least a little bit of the former in business. Without it, you won’t be able to go for it when you need to go for it. And if you don’t go for it, you won’t get it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Pete Szymanski

    Unfortunately, some take that advice the wrong way. I had recently been approached by a graduate of one of the top schools and asked to do a deal short term, now I haven’t been paid for two months, with a why are you bothering me and no return of calls. There is a difference in building for deals and screwing over service providers, vendors, which some people even from the top schools cross over the line — no one starts off that way — but that’s the first line of an entrepreneur’s thinking (lawyers, then…). Have you seen that kind of entrepreneurial mindset and where do you draw the line ? Thanks in advance.

  2. Yixing Jiang

    very good

  3. Thierry Ascarez

    Fake it till you make it

    1. jason wright

      and if you don’t make it?

      1. Vendita Auto

        pay more

  4. Dheren

    All great entrepreneurs (Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson etc.) have oversold & some continue to oversell. The golden rule is never sell what you can not eventually deliver! Some break this rule and the consequences are disastrous eg. Theranos

    1. Mark Gavagan

      Well said!

    2. Mike Zamansky

      And some break the rules and fail up while leaving others to deal with the mess.

  5. Mark Gavagan

    One thing to consider when deciding whether or not to make a promise you’re not currently able to fulfill is how much control & certainty you actually have over bridging the gap between what is today and what needs to be in order to fulfill the promise. In other words, how likely are you to fail, despite your best efforts.Another should be the consequences – especially for the other party – if you fail to deliver.

  6. Mike Zamansky

    Part of the calculus has to be evaluating the downside to both you and the party you’re promising. In the case of the Fortran job there wasn’t much of a downside to either party if you didn’t deliver. When there’s a real downside to either party that’s when there’s the possible shift to recklessness.I’ve been wondering recently on how much this confidence to promise and then figure out how to deliver is developed from growing up in a stable environment.

  7. Daniel Tutida

    feels like yesterday when I had to say to the club owners that we had the artists in the casting even it was just an international agency newsletter in my mailbox! So good to hear this, thanks for sharing

  8. Salt Shaker

    Many, if not most, embellish their credentials. A few harmless liberties won’t sink the boat. That said, there’s hardly a fine line between embellishment and lying. Sounds like you got a bit lucky in the example you cited. Not sure “faking it” like that would work in today’s market. Moreover, the risks certainly outweigh the rewards. If one tarnishes h/her reputation, then that potentially can be a serious challenge to overcome and rebuild. Self-confidence is rooted in achievement, it’s not a ticket for fakery. Forgive me, but I’m not quite sure I see the lesson/value in today’s post.

  9. Tom Evslin

    when I applied for a summer job programming at IBM, I said I could program because I had signed up for a non-credit programming course (also Fortran- this was 1963), which would be completed before I started the job. However, I didn’t think I’d get the IBM job and I was so used to cutting courses that I cut the programming one as well. Then I did get the job. You can imagine how relieved I was on the first day at work when my boss said “we are using a brand new language – XTRAN. Nothing you’ve learned will do you any good.” Other than being afraid to ask any questions because I didn’t know which questions would be absurd from someone who did know how to program, everything went fine. Programming supported the rest of my way through college and much of my life.

  10. Richard

    This had as much to do with Trumps success as anything. He had some great mentoring on this via weekly sermons from Norman Vincent Peale and a friendship.That said this doesn’t seem to be the limiting skill for recent grads.

  11. Girish Mehta

    I cannot agree with your post.Saying that you can do something you have never done may be bluster. Saying AND Believing that you can do something that you have not done, and maybe never done, is self-confidence. (It may also be self-delusion).But saying that you have done something that you have not done is being a fake.Your last paragraph is true in the abstract, and I agree with it. But your example doesn’t line up with your last paragraph.I’d say – Be careful when stuff that is true in the abstract does not line up with the action in the specific.You can be self-confident about your future ability to do something you have never done, without lying or faking it.

    1. Tom Labus

      It is the nature of risk to proceed when there is uncertainty. Outcomes are never know regardless of circumstances. This is a different scenario to lying regarding a direct question regarding talent or team, etc.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Re: “It is the nature of risk to proceed when there is uncertainty. Outcomes are never know regardless of circumstances.”Absolutely.Re: “This is a different scenario to lying regarding a direct question regarding talent”.He was asked a direct question regarding whether he knew Fortran programming. Fred says – “I didn’t know Fortran” and “I said – “Yeah, I’ve done some Fortran programming”.Consider this response instead – “No. I don’t know X. But I have done Y and Z which sets me up well to do X, and I am absolutely confident I can do this. Moreover, I want to do X anyway. What can I do to demonstrate that I will be able to pick this up quickly and do this ?”Now, the risk lies where it should belong – with the hiring mgr. They need to decide if they should proceed with a bright individual with the right attitude and who has related skills, but will need to pick up this skill. It will also alert the hiring manager, if they decide to proceed, to think about managing the risk in the early days.Lying about the skill did nothing to the risk except to hide it. This is of course a trivial example. Variants of this play out at much larger scale with much greater consequences.What is bothersome is the message of this post.

  12. Mike

    A lot of it comes down to risk management. Extending yourself, or your business, in thoughtful and deliberate ways. Not reckless, but you have to take on the risk to progress. Poker Players are masters.

  13. Tom Labus

    Bluster v fraud. It really depends on intent and what’s feasible too.

  14. jason wright

    If it succeeds then it’s confidence.If it fails it’s lying.Everyone wants success.No one wants failure.This is a temporal dilemma, but having a signed contract in the hand oils the money machine.

    1. Girish Mehta

      If it succeeds, its a lie that succeeded.Self-confidence is something else entirely.

      1. jason wright

        Success requires some measure of confidence, even for those with an equal or greater measure of self doubt, regardless of lie or not lie. When it comes to lying one has to assess the intent. To hurt, to hinder, to help, et.c. In England we sometimes use the phrase ‘white lie’ to make that distinction.Fred neglects to reference ‘integrity’. It goes to character.

  15. David A. Frankel

    Here’s the problem with the “fake it ’til you make it” code: it’s like hitting a straight tee shot when you are a novice golfer. Few people have the actual talent to do it consistently. Some people can concentrate and get the ball down the middle of the fairway every other time. For most people though, it is just dumb luck.While I applaud chutzpah, it can be hard for us to tell the difference between having the talent to make it when we are faking it and just being lucky. Our ego really wants us to believe we have the talent to do it. And when it works, magic can happen. When it doesn’t, you get the Fyre Festival….

    1. Girish Mehta

      You hit the nail on the head. People who operate to the “fake it till you make it” code are typically self-delusional about their competence and consistently over-rate themselves.

  16. Pointsandfigures

    A lot depends on the “stakes” too. Suppose you failed. A couple of people are disappointed and you might have saved face by saying, “I thought I was better at Fortran but evidently I am not. I am sorry” Everyone moves on.Or, there is Therenos.

  17. Michael Aronson

    Love the story Fred. My first “real” job was getting hired as a Wharton Teaching assistant and being handed a box of 4000 fortran punch cards, had to figure out both how the programming worked and the business logic and how Wharton’s new time shared Dec10 system should work (where Fred was an operator). Did use a manual but mostly had to figure it out, the brilliant professor knew he could do it if he had to so I think he assumed i could and spent many late nights not wanting to let him down. Once we commercialized the software, he and i took on many challenges which we got away with inspiration and perspiration till we came upon one large programming task with totally unrealistic technical and conceptual challenges and some poor programming techniques. i wanted to tell the client that we were not going to make it but my partner insisted we could, many many long nights fueled by stimulants got us close but missed a major launch date, took us another six months of hard work to get it done and it did have some limited commercial success.Actually view this as one of “few” failures in my career but entrepreneurs have to be optimistic and aggressive. i’ve learned that within computer science this works but harder with electrical engineering and much much harder with biology, chemistry and physics which is why we don’t invest outside of IT anymote.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Well done engineering, science, and math have some really big advantages over the software VCs do invest in: The advantages in those fields is that can have some secret sauce enabling, proprietary technological advantage that can be well verified just on paper. E.g., the US Navy knew in solid terms that their version of GPS (some years before the USAF version) really would work, including for the general relativity considerations, shortly after the first back of the envelope work and long before the rockets fired — the PL/I programming I did for the Navy was in the group that did that mathematical physics and I learned the details there.

  18. sigmaalgebra

    What you did with Fortran is quite doable: There was a book by McCracken, not very thick, that taught Fortran very nicely and quickly. The very well documented code you had was also a big help.I started with the Kemeny-Kurtz Basic and then learned Fortran for some calculations for laser wavelength measurement. The learning step from Basic to Fortran was not very large. Then I learned Formac, an IBM pre-processor for Fortran for computer algebraic manipulations, and used it for some series manipulations for local solutions for the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid flow.Soon I was dropped into GE Information Services division as the main guy in development, documentation, and support of the applied math library they had. So, I also learned Algol, right away — NICE language, the block structure is terrific. Mostly, though, I learned the popular applied math of the time, regression analysis, factor analysis, matrix inversion, Runge-Kutta for numerical solution of ordinary differential equations, the fast Fourier transform, lots of curve fitting, polynomial root finding, eigen values and eigen vectors, and more, Drinking from a fire hose.I learned assembler by printing out a Fortran program and also the corresponding assembler and went over each line of both and saw how the compiler generated the assembler. Then I wrote some assembler and called it from Fortran — *drop into assembler* is always nice to have!Next I was dropped into PL/I; learned it ASAP. Super nice language and IMHO better than essentially anything popular today. Used it for some Navy work and then to schedule the fleet at FedEx — resolved some big concerns of the BoD, enabled crucial funding, and saved the company.Then organizations were willing to let people learn as needed.Then and now, such self-teaching remains important in the computer industry. I didn’t just learn the languages but also got Knuth’s *Art …* and learned the most important parts, especially in sorting and searching. That knowledge is essentially still up to date with the corresponding course — from Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, Stein — MIT teaches now. So, in computing, such self-teaching is still feasible.Still a hot language is C — the old Fortran 66 is still significantly ahead of C.I taught some college courses in computing, but never really had such a course. Then on the Ph.D. qualifying exams, of the five exams, I was the best in the class on four of them including computing!IMHO, the software part of computer science has run out of good things to do: E.g., that MIT course today is not much ahead of Knuth’s *Art …”. C is still behind Fortran 66, and the other languages today are not much ahead of PL/I. Then the future should be based on math. Over at Hacker News, the audience is really good at programming languages, wants to know a lot more math, but struggles terribly with the math. When they get really lost in the math, occasionally I write them tutorials and overviews.The guy thought that he could do it, that is, raise the money. Good for him.FedEx was stuck on scheduling the fleet. Several of us met, and all we had was nonsense. I lost patience with the nonsense and just said I’d do it. I didn’t know how, but I thought I’d figure it out. So, I kept teaching my courses in computer science at Georgetown, thought about the scheduling, saw my way through, typed in the 6000 lines of PL/I, and was done — six weeks. Then also the Georgetown courses were over, and I drove my Camaro hot rod at about 90 MPH on the Interstates to Memphis, ran the program, scheduled the fleet, and saved the company. When I said I’d do it, I didn’t know how but thought I’d find something okay. I did. the FedEx founder, COB, CEO, another guy Fred, said “Amazing document. Solves the most important problem facing FedEx.”.

    1. Vendita Auto

      Love you Sheldon : )

      1. sigmaalgebra

        That I was using PL/I was interesting: I was writing the code from my home in Maryland. I wanted a copy of the PL/I documentation, 2-3 manuals, so called an IBM branch office and ordered them.Soon they were hand delivered to my home, no charge, by an IBM Marketing Representative! Apparently IBM REALLY, REALLY, REALLY wanted to keep track of ANY new user of PL/I!!!The IBM guy was nice, curious that I was writing code in my home using a time sharing terminal (to VM/CMS, virtual machine). I told him about the FedEx fleet scheduling problem. So, I got the manuals for free! Working for the Navy, I’d already learned PL/I quite well and, with the time sharing terminal, just wanted the manuals!Some years later my knowledge of PL/I was a big help: I was in the group at the IBM Watson lab that did IBM’s AI Program Product KnowledgeTool. I knew PL/I by a nice margin better than anyone else in our group. At one point one of our programmers was to work for weeks on implementing rule subroutines. The design was a disaster. I did an all-nighter, used some really nice features of PL/I to “call back into the stack of dynamic descendancy”, at dawn sent our group some e-mail on my code, got some sleep, and returned at noon. Our programmer was done that afternoon, and the functionality was MUCH better. I got an award check!But there was one guy in the building who knew PL/I better than I did — George Radin. He had been the chair of the committee that developed PL/I. Once I chatted with him about PL/I, KnowledgeTool, and operating systems. On the last his remark was “Three times in my career I tried to do something for IBM on operating systems, and three times I broke my pick trying.” He didn’t want to talk about operating systems!

  19. Jim Grey

    Maybe it’s why I’ve never caught the brass ring, but I just can’t make myself say I can do something I can’t yet, even if I’m confident I can close the gap in time. I always say instead that I intend to close the gap in time and am confident I will. And sometimes that’s caused me to miss an opportunity. But that’s where I have to draw the line for my own integrity.

  20. Mac

    Reminiscent of the Steven Spielberg story of how he got started in the movie business.

  21. falicon

    The comments on this one are fascinating to me.I think the missing point is that Fred’s example was stretching the truth in a very specific way…did he lie? Technically yes, but in my book he lied within reason.What does that mean?Well, he had some programming knowledge/experience, just not specifically in Fortran…so that, combined with the confidence he could “figure it out”…makes his “lie” not that much of a stretch.Same thing in the example of raising money…almost all ‘closers’ do some version of this…b/c it’s VERY hard to get the first yes, but it becomes much much easier to get the 2nd through X yes’es. So often based on experience and relationships, a closer will know they can stretch the reality of a couple of ‘maybes’ into that first yes that gets the deal flowing.For me personally – I started my career constantly committing to things I wasn’t sure how to do (but had confidence I would find a way to figure it out).I think I was always careful and clear about the things I had already accomplished (that should lead you to believe I can do this next thing)…but I was also very intentional to NOT let on just how big of a leap I might actually be taking in a given situation.I never said I had done or knew something I didn’t, but I did often reframe the conversation so it was clear that b/c of my experience with XYZ this wouldn’t be a problem.Usually that, coupled with a constant history/track record of ‘accomplishing’ stuff one way or another, and always working to grow the network/references was enough to get to yes.

    1. jason wright

      He lied, and got lucky after the fact.

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  22. Joe Marchese

    Boldness is always right, recklessness is always wrong. Tell yourself that in every instance to find the boundary and stay on the right side.

  23. jason wright

    Is this the kind of post that USV could come to regret over the next few months?

  24. JLM

    .I went to school at Virginia Military Institute (1839) during the late 1960s and very early 1970s at the height of the Vietnam War, a serious time. VMI is a lovely school, 180 years old today, that sits side-by-side with Washington & Lee (1749), a quintessential Southern school with a law school (1850 — first school of journalism in the country).Snuggled into the lovely Shenandoah Valley, it is an idyllic place resplendent with all the beauty found in the American South.Lexington, VA is a city steeped in Southern history. Stonewall Jackson taught at VMI. Rob’t E Lee is buried across the parade ground at Lee Chapel. That SOB Yankee Gen Hunter shelled VMI to the ground and burned the W & L Library books.VMI has an honor system that is administered by the Corps of Cadets. You could translate that to a peer-to-peer, mutual trust network which is run in a manner decentralized from the admin. Its traditions and values are unchanged since 1839.The Corps of Cadets elects members of the Honor Court, who finds a President and a Prosecutor.The Honor Code of VMI is simple: “A VMI cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal; nor tolerate anyone who does.” If a VMI cadet witnesses an honor violation and fails to report it, the cadet is guilty of a violation.In the tribal practices of VMI that pre-date the Civil War, when a cadet is accused of an honor violation, the Honor Court is convened and the prosecutor presents the evidence. The cadet is entitled to pick another cadet to defend him. [I defended cadets v the Honor Court a number of times with a 50% success rate. This was because I had taken several law courses at W & L’s Law School when I was a cadet.]The trials are convened after dinner in a secret place. If you room with an Honor Court member or if you are defending someone, your Brother Rats (classmates) know something is cooking because you disappear wearing your formal uniform (coatee).In my case, I would return to my barracks room which would wake up my roommates, but I could not tell them the name of the accused or the outcome of the trial. They could tell by the way I hung my uniform up and whether I got into bed or put my bathrobe on.The trials last through the night until the Court votes. If they vote to convict, the guilty party never re-enters barracks, his gear is brought out, he catches a cab to the bus station.That morning at 1-3 AM, a drummer plays a slow drum roll that is punctuated by a bass drum’s single ending beat. Your heart will quicken, you will jerk out of bed; it has a Stephen King quality to it.It is played in the quadrangle of Old Barracks (the part the Yankees shelled to the ground) for about 5 minutes wherein it bounces around the hard surfaces calling the cadets to line their stoops, lights out, and continues until every one of the 1-1500 cadets are at the edge of the guardrail on their floor (four floors tall).The Honor Court marches in — their feet echoing in unison over the hard surface of Stonewall Jackson Arch, above which it says, “You may be whatever you resolve to be.” They come to rest in the middle of the courtyard whereat the President of the Court comes forward.”Tonight your Honor Court has met. Cadet Jones was found guilty of an honor violation. He has been banished from the Institute. His name will never be mentioned again.”For some reason, it’s always cold, you can see the President’s breath, the President always has a deep Southern voice that sounds like it is on loan from St Michael the Archangel. Invariably, you knew the cadet.The Honor Court does an about face, and marches out through Jackson Arch to the statue of Gen Jackson and Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — four cannons from the Mexican and Civil Wars.The Corps of Cadets hangs around speaking in reverent whispers.The Corps never does mention the man’s name.It is an unforgiving tribal ritual that underpins the necessity for a future Army Officer to speak the truth, to act with honor in all things big and small because one day men’s lives may depend on their integrity.There is a notion called “quibbling” that would be like Freddie has described. It is when you speak some, but not all the truth. You will be drummed out of VMI for quibbling.Speaking the truth in all things — big and small — is the most liberating manner for a gentleman to live. It frees one from the petty necessity to divine the limits of the truth, to cut a sharp edge around small lies, to wonder what is small and what is large, to wonder where one’s integrity ends, to price one’s honor.I will never forget the first drumming out I ever witnessed when I was a Rat (Freshman). The President of the Honor Court had that perfect on pitch St Michael the Archangel voice.Every year, out of 1-1500 cadets there are about 5 drummings out. You never become comfortable with it. It is always a horror and it always makes you glad you are not that man.Since that day, I have tried as hard as I can to meet one test — is it the truth, the whole truth? Am I quibbling?If you want peace with yourself. Speak the truth in all things large and small.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Vendita Auto

      Hmmm “look after your own” was / is our code … not always right but what is !!

    2. cavepainting

      Loved the story.

    3. sigmaalgebra

      For college I was graduated from Rhodes in Memphis. When I was there, they had apparently a similar honor code. About the only difference was how a student found guilty was expelled: There was simply an announcement at a weekly student meeting that someone had been expelled for an honor code violation. Their name was not mentioned. There were no drums beating, etc. Otherwise the process was similar, e.g., students ran the process. On “quibbling” being an infraction may also have been different.My brother was also graduated from that college: The honor code did help him in that he tended to get all wrapped up in his work and then forget about, say, his umbrella and leave it some place. Some days later he would look for his umbrella and, without fail, find it still where he had left it!

  25. Vendita Auto

    “Ambition is the last refuge of failure” [Oscar Wilde]

    1. Girish Mehta

      In Wilde’s version there is a “the” before the word failure. I think he highlights the individual with the use of “the”.”Ambition is the last refuge of the failure”.

  26. TeddyBeingTeddy

    “I am not advocating lying but that is what I did and that is what my friend did”.Ironically, I respect that honesty.I’d teach my kids to not lie, because once trust is broken it can’t truly come back.But, I respect your honesty about dishonesty a ton!

  27. Rob Underwood

    While I appreciate the sentiment, and agree with it in principle, I think the world, and especially the tech industry, could do with much less of the puffery, blowhardness, and outright deceit that this counsel, when in the wrong hands, leads to.Just way, way too many charlatans out there building their career on a resume of conferences, LinkedIn mentions, and weasel word laden blog posts who have never accomplished, built, or delivered anything.I can see this strategy working wonders in the early 80s for someone like Fred, but problem now is that too few people now can balance “fake it to you make it” with some degree of humility and “beginner’s mind” essential to prevent this counsel from resulting in stuff like this …

  28. JLM

    .I was with you completely until you said the “White Privilege Walk.” What a dopey comment.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  29. Mike P

    There’s another lesson here for evaluators/interviewers: Have the self-confidence to look for and find talent that can pull off the job without the requisite experience. You see this happening in the highly competitive sports with analytics forecasting upside potential, but not so much in the business world. There’s a big disconnect between the way most companies source talent (i.e. to know things) and the actual duties/needs of the job (i.e. to figure out things).The underpinnings of the Fortran story is still relevant today. An org is trying to find a Fortran programmer (i.e. know something) when in reality the postdoc (i.e. team on the ground) had the foresight to comment the source code (i.e. provide a blueprint) so that someone can hit the ground running (i.e. figure it out and build something).

  30. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    ” I know BASIC & programming basics …and I can learn FORTRAN syntax in a week”would have ( probably ) fetched you the same result .AND you would have forgotten the instant like ” what you ate for breakfast in that same morning of interview”.The instant is still in your memory because “deep down” you KNOW you lied and it remains ….Good souls remember THE FEW small bad things they did ….Peace.

    1. JamesHRH

      He remembers it because it is his nature – he took a short cut and it worked out perfectly.He’s not guilty, he’s proud.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        I don’t know him personally.I was making a generalized comment & I should have taken the word ” people ” in making the comment.Me ‘point’ at him with the words ” you ” and ” your ” was ” my bad “.No harm intended.

  31. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    For those who are crying OUTA lie is a lie is lie a lie….You should have probably born in Porbandar 🙂

  32. JLM

    .Give me a minute, I am still trying to process the White Privilege angle with Freddie and his blog post.Evidence — the direct testimony of the chap involved, Freddie — seems pretty conclusive that he was working his hustle, so understand my inability to understand how the notion of White Privilege relates to Hustling Freddie.Pretty sure it’s just a bullshit utterance drawn from one’s bag of tricks when the trick bag gets a little low, but, hey, maybe not. Pretty sure you won’t be able to explain it — open handed invite right there if I’ve ever seen one — so I will move on.OK, I was experiencing a bit of intellectual vertigo for a second. Now, I get it.White Privilege — the explanation for stuff when no other explanation works.[Don’t get me wrong. Freddie is white. He is privileged. But, not every instance marries those two words.]JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  33. Mike Porath

    After reading the comments here, I guess I read this differently than most. To me, this was not telling people to lie but rather encouraging people when they see opportunities to go after them and then deliver on them. It resonated with me.

  34. Ruhinda Ruganda

    I absolutely agree with the spirit of the post. Great thread as always on here.

  35. Laura

    Love how raw and open you are in your in your posts. It reflects more the reality of how to succeed than what many idealists would agree. However, I’ve noticed many idealists like to talk and criticize , but don’t really act in ways that show they stand for their values. I saw you talking at MIT when I was student there – I just signed up for your posts – I didn’t realize how much I had missing out on! I used to write articles about self-confidence in the MIT campus newspaper – I completely agree on confidence. It is really all it takes – yet, weirdly enough sometimes hard to feel.

  36. Girish Mehta

    Yes. Like I said elsewhere, if it succeded, its a lie that succeeded. Self confidence is something else entirely.

  37. Amar

    As @JLM:disqus would say Charlie – “I agree more with you than you do with yourself”. Going back to the original golden rule as spoken by a man who never lied — this behavior is slippery slope. After a while, you start seeing in others what you condone for yourself. Integrity is hard fought and worth preserving.

  38. cavepainting

    Yes. Outright lie when confronted with a question is unethical.If you do not provide conditional brackets around what you can do, it is wrong.But there are several times when the last push to close means telling the customer or investor that you can figure this out and that they should feel at ease trusting you.Good salespeople and entrepreneurs make promises that can be delivered and then work like hell to make that statement come true. Can it be over done? Yes, Surely. But there is always room for creative selling backed by real commitment and competence.

  39. Matt A. Myers

    Somehow clicked downvote initially – fixed it!

  40. Tom Labus

    If there is risk, no one moves ahead with complete certainty.

  41. cavepainting

    The spirit of the post is it is ok to push the envelope on what you promise if you believe you can deliver even if you do not exactly have it all lined up.You can debate this and technically call it lying, etc. but there is a difference between empty bluster and sales talk and confidence stemming from competence and a sincere want to do well.Why appreciate Steve Jobs creating a reality distortion field? Is it all not a lie?Why sing praises of Elon Musk when he constantly pushes the boundaries on positioning capabilities of his products? Is it not outright deception?There is a definite difference between “confidence from competence” and lying intended to deceive and solve for oneself.Chutzpah to close the last mile is a reflection of enterprise not mendacity.

  42. Rick Mason

    I’m sure you could plausibly say that Elizabeth Holmes lied because she was buying time until she could succeed. At the time she went to raise funding she was absolutely certain that her team would eventually figure it out. She got funded even though she didn’t know enough to realize what she was attempting was physically impossible. I think that it’s entirely possible she believes in her own mind that Theranos failed only because she ran out of time.

  43. Matt A. Myers

    Reminds me of the “act as if” mantra that I despise; dishonesty that gets rewarded is a very bad mechanism to align oneself with.Edit to add: These behaviours are all acts of the ego, of pretending – adding and controlling to hold a layer of reality that isn’t truth. I understand that it can form through desperation: you need to steal that loaf of bread to eat, you “need” to lie to get a person to agreement to something (trick them) so then you can secure what you promised. Ugh.

  44. falicon

    All fair points – I agree lying is bad.I was just saying, I think there’s more to most of these examples than just a pure “fake it until you make it”…most of the time, it’s relationships and experience along with situational factors that *can* allow for some ‘stretching’…

  45. cavepainting

    There is a clear line between lying /untruthful vs. sincere salesmanship.You are calling situations involving the latter as lying. It is simply not true. I am not judging Fred’s example as one or the other. Just saying that there is a real difference.

  46. Pointsandfigures

    HA. Pretty disappointing when your governor uses a scam to avoid property taxes, and then still gets elected….

  47. Pointsandfigures

    he has some self confidence that’s for sure and thanks.

  48. cavepainting

    You are right. I am sorry. Your comments were generic and not pointing to specific things as lying or not. I am glad we agree.It eventually comes down to awareness of what’s right and what’s not. The line is the demarcation between when you are selfish and primarily solving for self vs. having empathy for the other party and ensuring that you are solving for their needs.

  49. Matt A. Myers

    Sounds similar to the delusional logic I imagine Trump has used his whole life to cope.

  50. JLM

    .I think E Holmes is a fundamentally dishonest person who got sucked into something that spun out of control. As she made each dishonest utterance, the next dishonest utterance became progressively easier to make such that she began to lose any connection with reality.Her Steve Jobs black turtleneck appearance, her faux voice, her superstar board, her suspect tech, her failure to provide answers to questions, her affair with her older founder, her obsession with SV appearances, the way she treated people, the way she allowed the lab to operate outside the acceptable regulatory standards — each one was a tell of her fundamental intellectual and, ultimately, her business dishonesty.Life on the edge of success when it is attributable to unachieved goals is a tortuous way to live which puts the perp in deep water just out of sight of land.She doesn’t even know where or when she started lying.This is why Freddie’s story is so troubling to me. It is the first act of personal dishonesty that empowers the next one and allows it to become easier and grow larger in scope.I’d like to read a tale wherein somebody refused to be drawn to the siren song of unfulfilled yearnings as a justification for doing the expedient wrong.My name is Diogenes the Cynic.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  51. JLM

    .Delusion is predicated upon “false or unrealistic beliefs or opinions.” I don’t think that is what you are really accusing Trump of possessing or operating under the influence of.There is an extraordinary story of Donald J Trump and the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park in Manhattan. At the core of the story is a city that was unable to get the damn skating rink renovated though it had spent more than $12MM and spent a decade.The “delusional” Mr. Trump boasted that he would get it done for a small amount of money and get it done quick. Bear in mind the City of New York had been throwing money at it for a decade.He and Mayor Koch had a bet about it. Everybody thought DJT was delusional.True to his word, Trump got it done thereby popping his critics aspersions and evaporating their howls of “delusional.”I think it would have been fair at the time to suggest that his boastful utterances were delusional — meaning false or unrealistic. That would certainly have been the “conventional” wisdom, but he got it done thereby holding the mirror up to himself and the City of NY Parks Dept.It is not delusional if you hold seemingly unrealistic beliefs and you go out and accomplish them. Then they are simply ambitious objectives.Trump is an easy man to dislike in the sweep of things, but when measured by what he actually accomplishes, the fair minded person says, “There is more here than meets the eye.”Three perfect examples of that are:1. Getting NATO to fund itself in accordance with the treaty. Trump shamed the rest of Europe into meeting their treaty commitments. Something that prior administrations had been totally unable to get done since Bush I.2. Wiping out ISIS as a Caliphate, as a land mass, as an alternative government in the chaotic Middle East. Again, prior administrations decried how to deal with the Caliph. President Trump wiped the Caliph and his followers out — an elegantly simple solution and one that it is hard to argue with.3. Creating manufacturing jobs. The prior admin admitted defeat — meaning they could not get it done. They mocked Trump saying he thought he had a “magic wand.” A classic denigration of his efforts as being “false or unrealistic beliefs.”Then, the old boy works his “magic” and creates the fertile opportunity to add more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs where predecessor admins were consistently losing jobs.In each of these examples, a person could paint them and Trump as being “delusional” meaning false, unrealistic in his approach.The problem is that he turned them into “heads on the wall” thereby proving that they were no delusional.One can spend a lot of time hating on Trump. You will get no quarrel from me. But, one has to give him credit for the results her achieves.If you are a guy who did not have a job under the prior regime and have one under the Trump admin, you do not think he is delusional.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…