January 24, 2012

How to Have the Force.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to really tell the truth. I think it’s very hard. On this blog, for the past 400 days, I’ve told the truth. And that’s probably the only time in my life. I would say every other part of my life I’ve mostly lied, either to myself or others. I’m really sorry if one of you are reading this. If you even know.

It doesn’t mean I’ve said everything I thought (so-called “radical honesty”where there is no filter between brain and mouth) and it doesn’t mean I’ve revealed everything possible although as one person once put it, “reading James Altucher’s blog is like watching an ongoing train wreck”. Believe me, it could be a lot more of a wreck.

I’ve also taken down or changed posts when other people informed me they were hurt by them. A recent example is my Wikipedia post where I took out the specific emails and just summarized some of them. I don’t want to hurt anyone. And an older example is this post where it was pointed out to me I crossed a boundary.

But I’ve lied a lot. And, in doing so, I created a lot of temporary pleasures, 100% of which I lost. I started and sold companies based on lies. I’ve met women based on lies. I lied to my parents as a kid. I’ve lied to my kids to keep them in line. I’ve lied to keep out of trouble in various ways.

I’ve written before about the seven things that happen to honest people. The seven items were mostly negative items. For instance, various people start to hate you when you are honest. Some sort of dissonance forms in their mind about who you are and they can’t handle it. So they hate you.

But there’s many positive things that happen with honesty.

Honest with yourself – I’m an XYZ addict. You can replace “XYZ” with every single thing that has been used before the word “addict”. The worst is when the addictions combine. Even two addictions combining is enough to kill someone and I’ve probably combined 4 or 5 at the same time. Why am I not being more specific? As much of an unfolding train wreck that I am, some things are still hard for me to write.

What’s the benefit of being honest with yourself? Recognizing my weaknesses, working on them, recognizing the liberating benefits of not having those weaknesses, using the experience of that liberation to help others – these are all benefits of being honest with yourself.

How to be honest with yourself? This is hard. But a good start, surprisingly, is always being grateful for what you have. And add to that list every day.

A second start is for everything you do, always ask – why do I am doing this? Why do I need this? Did I go to India this week because I wanted to learn Yoga? Or did I go because I didn’t want to miss Claudia for a whole month? Or did I go because I was afraid I would be jealous with Claudia gone and if so, why? Who knows? But I need to ask so I’m not BS-ing myself on my reasons.

Honest with others – If people know that you are above and beyond honest with others, they will listen to you. They will know that your words are weighed out carefully.

What you say about the past, to make a point about the present, will bring you benefits in the future. Because people will believe and return your trust with affection. Affection going in your direction will have rewards.

The Force. But it’s more than that. When you are honest with others to a fault then your words have more than just the power of description.

Each word gets loaded with its truth. You become so experienced and knowledgable about what telling the truth means that your words take on a different character than the people who even slip for a second, even in telling a white lie.

Without describing the details, Claudia and I had a discussion where she had an opportunity to tell a white lie today to get some small gain. Instead, she didn’t, and it was noticed, and she ended up with a huge gain.

People notice extreme (not “radical” but “extreme”) honesty. They reward it. The world rewards it.

Then what happens? Then your honest words are not only about the past but about the future. If you say, “you’re going to be ok” people believe you. And when they believe you, it often happens.

Because your words allow people to relax, to reduce their anxieties and stresses, to follow in the direction you’ve pointed them because they know you would not have said it if it weren’t true. If anxieties and stresses go away because of the confidence you instilled in them, then events are more likely to go the way they want. You will have helped create the future.

This doesn’t just happen in one day. But this “power” comes with constant honesty. Every day in a row you are completely honest, the power builds. Slip up once, even with a white lie, and then you start from scratch. I’ve seen this power in action many times.

“These are not the droids you are looking for”. So I’m going to take this to a geeky level: Star Wars. Claudia asked me, “so if honesty creates The Force, wasn’t Obi-Wan lying when he said ‘these are not the droids you are looking for?’”

(the scene in question)

The real answer is, “its just a movie”. But lets look at it deeper. Obi-wan was speaking with honesty about what he felt was best for everyone involved. Again, this is not “radical honesty” where you have no filter between your head and your mouth. That could lead to hurt, pain, dissonance, immaturity. Nor is this “revealing honesty” where you just tell people everything about yourself. If I did that I’d probably be in jail five times over. And then my kids would miss their father. Nor was Obi-Wan saying a “white lie” to get some small-term advantage or avoid some small disharmony.

But sometimes there are two truths. And if you have 50 years experience, then you pick the right truth to tell. He felt deep down his words were SAVING THE GALAXY. So in that sense, those really weren’t the droids that were going to help those soldiers.

Every second you say to yourself: are my words honest, and not hurtful to anyone? Are these the exact words that are best for everyone and no other words would do. Then those are the words you use. That is honesty.

How do you know what are the exact words that are best for everyone?

You don’t.

It takes practice. I don’t think I can do it, for instance. I’m just practicing.

I know when I was outright dishonest with people I hurt a lot of people. And then it becomes like plugging a boat where every lie is a leak. Eventually you can’t plug all the leaks and you sink.

I know this and I think about the below list every day:

  • I don’t want to hurt people anymore.
  • I want to be honest with myself because that will be the fastest route to liberating myself from my anxieties
  • I want to be honest with others because I think when I am constructive with either criticism or suggestions then it helps the people I am talking to.
  • I selfishly want to control the future. The more honest I am about the past, the more the future will bend to my words. If I can discern the BS in the past, I can wade my way through the BS that hits us every day as we get propelled into the future.
  • The more honest I am, the more experienced I am with honesty, the more I will be able to tell when other people are being honest with me.
  • There’s an expression, “his word is worth shit”. I want the exact opposite of that. I want every letter I say to be worth gold. Then gold is created.
  • I’ve seen my boat sink over and over because I couldn’t plug all the leaks. I’ve barely left the port. I want to cross the ocean now.

Honesty will get me across that ocean. And when I finally hit new land, I can’t wait to explore, and I can’t wait for the adventures I will have.

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