Wendy\'s Blog

Save Yourself from Liars, Fakes and Bullshitters

by Wendy Keller

Today I had a call with a potential business colleague.  He works with someone I know, and I had an idea that could make us both some money.  But when we got on the call, he launched into a diatribe about how “other people” had done him wrong; how much money he’d made on previous things he’d done; and how successful he expected his next venture to be, based on his “extensive experience” which I know wasn’t all that successful.

It felt like I was being sucked into quicksand.

By the end of the call, which happened as rapidly as I could do it, I felt like I wanted to take a shower and use an SOS pad for soap!  Eeeew!

There’s nothing overtly sleazy about this guy. I’m aware that he likely did all that posturing, lying and exaggerating because he wanted to impress me.  But we human beings are funny in that way…

We all have a built-in “bullshit detector”… but we don’t always use it.

Setting aside the reasons why we don’t, here are some “What To Do About It” steps that can help us when we feel ourselves attracted to the spider’s web…

1.

When reading or listening to anything – from news to a friend’s glorious vacation story to a marketer’s easy steps to making millions in 30 days – do a “gut check.” Even if you’re wrong and the person is totally legit, your gut will tell you whether or not this is right for you. Your senses are always on high alert – that’s how our distant ancestors made it long enough to procreate. Listen to that “small voice” inside of you.

2.

When you suspect someone is being less than honest in a real interaction (for example, on the phone or on purpose), politely ask qualifying questions.

I remember the first time my dad caught me in a lie. I’d pretended I couldn’t hear my mother calling me to dinner because I wanted to stay with my friends in the sand pile in Tommy’s yard next door. I told my dad it was because I’d had my head buried in the sand for a long time, “like an ostrich.”
I was about eight. 
Not only do I now know that ostriches don’t actually do that, but on that day, I learned the price of being caught in a blatant lie.

When you ask an adult for more details and they are lying, or bullshitting, chances are they will flare up, talk louder, faster, change the subject or attack you in some way. That’s a sure fire sign something’s amiss.

longhorn bull

3.

In the case of bullshit when you’re not interacting with the person in real time, such as in print or on TV or the internet, pause for a moment and ask, “Does this sound too good to be true?” or “Does this sound too perfect to be true?”

I’ve heard it said that Facebook is a depression prompt for some people. “Why does everyone have a better life than I do?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Asking yourself critical questions gives you the perspective you need to discern what’s real and what isn’t, and maintain a healthy sense of yourself.

If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

4.

Un-slime yourself immediately. For me, that’s a matter of taking a few deep breaths, reflecting on how I want to be sure I communicate more honestly in the future, and releasing judgement of the person/company that I suspect is bullshitting me. They probably have their reasons – everyone has reasons for everything they do. Some people shake it off, literally. You might want to get up and walk around for a few minutes. Take a mini-break or read something completely distracting.

5.

Make a new plan, Stan. We can dislike the bullshit, we can reject the offer, we can avoid future interactions, we can walk away, we can think of something else if we’re forced to listen, take it with “a grain of salt”, on and on. You have a choice. You don’t have to whip out your credit card to get that Special Report that will help you make all that money in 30 days. You don’t have to agree with anyone else’s point of view.  You don’t have to even reply or respond, in many cases.

You are at choice. Take back your choice and make the best decision for yourself.

We don’t have to be victims. We don’t have to absorb the crazy-making of other people’s bullshit, lies or confusing conversations. There’s no reason to engage with frauds, charlatans and questionable people.

If your gut tells you it isn’t true, listen to yourself and take immediate, appropriate action.

Have you got some goals?
 
Some dream or adventure you long to enjoy?
 
Career aspirations you just never seem to get around to? Maybe writing the novel or starting your own company or opening a dive shop in the Bahamas?
 

Here’s the stark, unhappy, unpleasant truth:
You are highly unlikely to achieve any of that stuff.

Slap in the face? Yeah, for me too. I’ve got lists of goals I’ve dragged around since the 90s – and I see myself only slightly closer to a few of them.

Most of us are the same:

We hope for all these glorious achievements…but never achieve them.

 
Our individual lists of Whys is brilliant! Any logical person can see it is completely reasonable and rational that you haven’t achieved your most precious goals and I haven’t achieved mine.

Pick your favorite excuse:

  • “I can’t until the kids get older…”
  • “I don’t have the money right now…”
  • “I’m in the middle of a big project at work…”
  • “I don’t know where to start…”
  • “I’m too old” (or) “I’m too young”
  • “My health isn’t the best…”
  • “My marriage is on shaky ground…”
  • “I’m single, but once I find a partner…”
  • “I’m so busy with this other thing. But as soon as this is done…”
  •  
    Yeah. OK.

    Bull-poopies.

    Somewhere burrowed deep down in your heart is the horrifying, hidden, hideous secret that…you are scared to death of going for it.
    fear Franklin Roosevelt
    What if you fail? What if you succeed? What if your dream just isn’t possible for you? What if you’re not good enough? What if it is too hard? What if you don’t have the talent after all? What if you really do run out of food, clothing and shelter before you achieve it? What if getting what you want means hurting – or compromising – someone else? What if your parent/the bully at your middle school/the pastor/your mean teacher/your first boss was actually right about you and you will never amount to anything? And you look weird and you dress funny.

    What if getting what you say you really, truly want means that you have to risk absolutely everything else in your life to get it?

    I’m a literary agent. That means I sell books to publishers on behalf of (nonfiction) authors. Want to know the worst case I’ve ever seen of someone terrified of their own dream? Sixteen years ago, I met a man who pitched me on representing his book. I liked the idea and asked him to send it to me. I could have sold it quickly. I never got a word. But every year or two since, he calls or emails me to tell me he’s “still working on it.”

    People like him used to really irk me…until I realized I am one of them. (Not when it comes to writing, mind you! My next book “The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building” just released.) But I am just like that guy in so many other ways! We look at someone who has achieved what we’re afraid of and think, “Wow! I want that!” But that person is afraid of something different, maybe something that’s easy for you.

    So year after year, we wait for the Magic Moment to arrive when we won’t be afraid and the stars will align and Poof! A miracle!

    It’s easier to wait for miracles, chanting while looking at a vision board, than to face our fears. It’s pretty harsh to accept that not much changes, although time is passing. Not only am I confessing publicly…

    I’m challenging you to actually look inside yourself and check where you are procrastinating out of fear.

    • A close friend finally left a miserable marriage after 27 years together. He was already miserable by their first anniversary!

    • A beloved colleague has told me for years how much she wants to sell or delegate her thriving business to go do something completely artistic. The first time she ever told me that was in 2004.

    • A family member has changed careers more times than I can count. Each time, she gets excited, enrolls in a course, and then halfway through, starts to worry that she won’t like the work, or won’t pass the final exam, or won’t get hired even if she does…and she starts to back away from her dream.

    • When our daughters were in elementary school, another single mother said to me, “Oh Wendy! I wish I could be like you! I’d love to buy a house and run my own business!” When I asked her why she couldn’t, she explained, “The house might be too far for my husband to drive to work.” But at that time, she wasn’t even dating anyone!

    I can’t sit here on my throne and say, “Listen, little children! I have the solution! Just do X and you will break through all your obstacles! They’re just in your head, not in reality!” Even though I can see that for both of us, it really, truly is just in our heads.
     
    The logical part of me knows that I’m the biggest impediment to my own success. Just like you are to yours.

    Instead, I’m inviting us to examine the deep truth about what’s stopping us. Whose voice told us we’re not good enough? Why do we keep reciting that message? What fears are preventing us? We know it’s not lack of knowledge. Between books and Google, you can find out how to do anything. There’s something bigger, something deeper, something scarier inside that prevents us from taking the kind of action that actually moves us toward our stated-but-not-acted-on dreams.
    dandelion girl
    Like dandelions, I believe we need to find those weeds and yank them out by the roots. Everybody’s scared, just of different things that you are. Pull a Franklin Roosevelt on yourself. He’s the guy who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    Our ability to root out our fears and take even one step in the right direction – much less take massive action – happens when we lay aside the fears and worries for split second and quickly take action before we have time to stop ourselves. Your heart may be beating fast, but can rest up for a bit after that, while you summon up your courage for the next step. See? You’re still breathing.. Nothing so bad happened. Ready? Go!

    If not now, when?

    Yesterday, I told a friend that I am unable to get out of a situation that isn’t working in my life because I don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.

    To be honest with myself, what I meant by that is “I don’t want to go through the unpleasant drama that other person is highly likely to create if I tell them what I really feel.”  So instead, I just minimize contact to the best of my ability.

    My friend challenged me on this “dishonesty”.  That challenge caused me to examine myself more closely.  This is a recurring theme in my life! For the first time, I realized how many times I ignore or excuse others’ unfair, unkind or impolite behaviors just to “keep the peace”.  I have this fantasy that I am being kind because I am accepting the other person just as they are. Ironically, in my work life, I am fierce when I see an injustice against one of my clients or myself. But in my personal life?  Well, I am overly non-confrontational.

    I rationalize that it isn’t really that big of a deal when someone often says mean things, or if I continue to associate with a person whose personality I no longer want to be around, or if someone seems to pull me down emotionally every time I’m around them.

    Upon reflection, I see this pattern started in childhood. I felt like I had to be always alert Continue reading

    Need to make a tough decision?

     

    Here are 3 Steps to Help You Make the Right Choice

     
    Most rational adults can see both sides of a decision: the upside and the downside. Sometimes, this skill keeps us frozen in indecision. This blog will give you 3 memorable strategies you can use every time you feel trapped between “Yes” and “No”.

    1The List Method:  Your head and your heart need to be involved in decision making.  To “hear” each side fairly, take two sheets of paper. Write your question as succinctly as possible across the top of each page.  Draw a vertical line down the middle of each.  Label one side “Pros” – those things that are likely positive outcomes – and the other side “Cons” for those outcomes that may not be so ideal.

    In the upper right hand corner of one sheet, draw a heart.  In the same location on the other sheet, draw a brain.

    In a quiet location where you will not be disturbed for at least 15 minutes, choose the “Brain” sheet and spend some time writing down what you think will be the pros and cons of making this decision.  Come back and add more to this page a few times over the next day or two, to be sure you didn’t miss anything.

    When that is complete, repeat this exercise with the “Heart” sheet.  Spend some time writing down what you feel will be the pros and cons of making this decision.  Oftentimes, we make a decision with one part of us without considering the other. This method, an adaptation of one popularized long ago by the great Benjamin Franklin, will help you be sure to include both parts of you.  That way, you can be certain you are making a balanced decision.

     

    2The Time Machine Method:  Pretend that you’ve made a firm choice either way.  Then strap yourself into your time machine and speed into the future. Assuming the best possible outcome, if you made this decision today, what would you expect to have happen in the next week, month, six months, year and five years?  Write it down or play it out in your head, in full color, as if you are watching a movie on fast forward. What’s life like for you and all concerned in those future dates?  Is life better or worse? Are you happier or less happy?

    Emerge from your time machine, take off your helmet, shake out your hair and…climb back in. Now repeat this exercise with the opposite decision.  Fast forward into the future. Assume the best possible outcome. What is life like for you and those you care about next week, month, six months, year and five years? Look around. Is this outcome what you desired?

    The Time Capsule will give you these three benefits: You end up with more clarity about how the decision will affect your life; you open your eyes to factors that you may not have previously considered; and you can now surge forward with confidence, knowing you’re making the right choice.

     

    3The CEO Method:  Executives and entrepreneurs have to make decisions every day that affect people and money.  Imagine how stressful that becomes!  One of the best bits of advice I got early in my life as an entrepreneur was this: “50% of your decisions are going to be right; 50% of your decisions are going to be wrong. Your only solution is to decide faster.” 

    Really?

    Yes!  Think of the energy you’re expending right now by being indecisive. Look around. Most decisions are reversible.  There are couples who separate – a decision – and then get back together – another decision.  There are people who stick a For Sale sign in their front yards – and then yank it back out a few months later.  Very few things are irreversible.

    Even of those that are, there are endless future decisions that could make things turn out better than you can even imagine right now. Hate your job and want to leave?  Fine.  Want to work in a different industry? Fine. Find out you don’t like that industry either? Fine.  Start in a new one, start your own company or do something completely different.

    We’re often trapped by fear in our decisions, frozen by thoughts of the fallout. But the minute we take a deep breath, implement one or all of the strategies outlined here and have the courage to act on what our intuition tells us because of these methods, the better we become at decision making and the more confident we become in our ability to trust ourselves.

     

    Like making decisions? Hate it? Want to add a strategy you use to help the readers of this blog? Please comment below.

     

    If you’re depressed, you are all too familiar with that listless, foggy, draggy feeling. Depression can negatively affect our personal lives, our work life, our sense of ambition.  Left unmanaged, it can snowball into much bigger problems.

    As a cloud of gloom settles on you and the depression makes you too exhausted to do anything, these simple time-tested remedies can at least give you a little step in the right direction so that you can soon overcome that empty feeling.

    1Force Yourself to Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night.  That means, under the covers, lights out.  Many scientific studies have proven that the way to get little kids to go to bed is to build a routine – the same things happen in the same order each night so they are triggered into sleepiness. Turns out, it works for grownups too! My routine when I feel a depression cloud coming on: 45 minutes before my chosen bedtime, I turn off all electronics; take a warm shower; wear my most comfortable jammies;  turn off all the lights except the reading lamp beside my bed; then read a well-written book that interests me mentally but does not grab me emotionally.  This takes my mind off my problems.  I quit reading as soon as my eyelids get too heavy. Poof! I’m asleep fast and the last thing on my mind has nothing to do with the thing(s) I think are making me feel blue.

    2Go Third Person on Yourself.  When a writer writes a story, he has the choice to use what is called “first person” or “third person”.  First person is, “I went to the store.”  Third person is, “She went to the store.”  One common trait among depressed people is Continue reading

     

    So you don’t have Warren Buffett’s money, Angelina Jolie’s good looks, Mother Teresa’s charitable heart, or Richard Branson’s business skills?

    Drat. Me neither.

    I wonder if the cave men sat around the campfire wondering if some tribe 100 miles west had better tasting antelope or more comfy animal skins to sleep on? Probably not.

    So why do we allegedly modern humans compare ourselves to one another – and most of the time find ourselves coming up short?

    Could it be the fault of television and the internet?

    How else would a person living today on the Mongolian steppes even know there are palm trees in Hollywood?

    How would some kid being raised in poverty in an inner city slum even realize that some other kids have two parents and a bedroom stuffed with toys in a clean, peaceful, safe suburb?

    What Does It Do for Us When We Compare Our Lives with Those of Another?

    I can think of three benefits: Continue reading

    Do You Suffer from Low Self-Esteem?

    Think back to your younger years. Were you raised by the perfect parents, people who supported you and your interests, encouraged you to go as far as you could, to spread your wings and soar? Did you know that they had your back and there was always a safe place called “home” to which you could return?

    No? Wish you’d had those kind of people raising you? Bad News: They are a myth. A myth that does us no good.

    Most people grow up being raised by inadequately prepared human beings who were raised by other inadequately prepared human beings back into the mists of time. Some people even grow up with damaged, malicious parents who didn’t even try. Maybe your home was OK but you had a sibling or a bully in your life whose sole purpose was to make you miserable. Maybe you took a wrong turn and ended up dropping out of school, marrying the wrong person, having a kid too early in your life, losing a good job or blowing all your money.

    Maybe somewhere between your glorious, potential-filled moment of birth and today, things have not turned out so good.

    Welcome to the planet! A lot of people have reached adulthood with our so-called self-esteem in tatters, or worse – completely gone.

    Suspect that might be you?

    The Self Esteem Quiz

    (Answer Yes or No to the questions below) Continue reading