Today is 12.12.12

December 12, 2012 by Bill Bradley


Title: The Best Post You Will Ever Read (That’s a lie.)

Competency: ethics, trustworthiness

Who benefits: all of us

Consultant Usage: This book should be required for all organizational or people consultants.

What’s it about?  You will notice that today’s title is 12.12.12.  That much is true, at least for those of us who use this particular calendar.  But not everyone believes in this calendar.  Is it possible that today’s date is a lie?

I mean if you really think about it (and I recommend you don’t), today’s date is just a collective fiction that a group of us agreed to adhere to, regardless of what other groups claim.

According to Dan Ariely, author of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves, this is a simple example of “wishful blindness”.  A process of wishing and arranging our thinking so something becomes true.  I have a very dear friend who is extremely involved in American politics.  He is a good person.  Far smarter than me.  But it frustrates me how he continues to wishfully arrange what he sees to fit his political views.  How about at work?  Do you know any fellow workers who are oblivious to the obvious?  “Wishful blindness.”

My friends chide me about my views on romance.  “Wishful blindness.”  Guilty as charged.  Oh how I lie to myself!

As regular readers know, morality in the workplace is a big issue for me.  Ethics, honesty, doing the right thing are my passions.  I am sick and tired of the Enrons, Wall Street shenanigans, government corruption.

And yet, ultimately it comes back to the individual.  To you and I.  To what makes us and others tick.

When I was a teen I was mentored for a short while by a former Lt. Governor of California. I asked him one day why there were so many corrupt politicians.  I don’t remember his exact response but the gist of it has remained with me all my adult life:  He replied that it was because there were so many corrupt voters.  That wasn’t the answer I was expecting.  Can voters suffer from “wishful blindness”?  I think I answered my own question several paragraphs ago.

Ariely basically writes that everyone cheats.  Everyone lies.

We use the famous “white lie” because, in our infinite wisdom, we want to spare someone’s feelings.  In Brasil (I choose to use this spelling to honor how Brasilians spell their country) there is the “Brasilian lie” use by women to cope with the macho culture they live in.  I get a kick out of watching couples who have been together for many years.  Often one dominates and issues orders.  The other responds with “Yes dear” and proceeds to ignore the order.  My grandparents lived that way and lived that fiction for 60 plus years.

What makes Ariely a must read is how he refutes previous arguments of rational lying and cheating.  It has been argued by many earlier writers that lying and cheating is a rational, cost/benefit process.  There is even a well-known and respected decision-making process known as SMORC – Simple Model of Rational Crime – a simple comparison of positive and negative outcomes.  Right and wrong, morality, and ethics do not play an active role in the process.  Example: illegal parking, if you do it, you weight the consequences (ticket, possible tow) against the time gained or the distance shortened.  You already know it is illegal.  That doesn’t fit into the equation.  In economic terms it is a simple cost/benefit analysis.

Ariely argues it is much, much more complex than that.  If you are interested in knowing what makes us tick, why we do what we do, why we behave so irrationally at times … and yet most of us remain fundamentally good, I urge you to read this book.  It is not a book I feel comfortable summarizing.  It is far too important for that.

The book is extremely reader friendly.  Some of the stories are LOL.  His research is riveting.  Please, if you can find the time, don’t miss it.  I consider it a must read. It explains so much and gives context to who we are within ourselves and in our society.  I am putting his book on my top ten list for the year (see next week’s post).

PS: If you enjoy biting satire, I recommend a companion read (very funny): Get Rich Cheating: The Crooked Path to Easy Street.

Catch you later.

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Leadership Development, Wellness

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