“Honesty is a very expensive gift; don’t expect it from cheap people.” — Warren Buffet
I’m going to open this post by bragging: I read a lot. I’m a nerd. This is what nerds do.
Currently, I’m about a quarter of the way through Snowball, Warren Buffet’s biography and one passage has really stuck with me. It’s a passage placed early in the book about the shared mindsets of both Buffet and his long-time business partner Charley Munger.
“They thought alike and had the same fascination with business as puzzle worth spending a lifetime to solve. Both regarded rationality and honesty as the high virtues. Quickened pulses and self-delusion, in their view, were the major causes of mistakes.”
Say what you will about Warren Buffet, the dude set out to accomplish a goal and became the best in the world at what he cared most about: making money. From an early age, he wanted to accumulate massive amounts of wealth and it’s safe to say he’s checked that box.
Whether you’re money motivated or not, I believe there are lessons to be learned from the above passage. Specifically, I’m intrigued by the virtues of honesty and rationality.
Rationality, in my estimation, is the ability to act objectively in spite of emotional responses. A valuable skill and something I’ll definitely dive into in another post.
Honesty is what I want to focus on today because it’s been a focus of mine for a number of years. When I was in college, I underwent a pretty substantial ego death due to a shitty lie I told and, ever since, I’ve prioritized integrity in every aspect of my life.
(By the way, I’m happy to write about this ego death, what happened, and what I learned, but not today; I don’t have enough energy to tell that whole story)
I’m not perfect. No one is. I still catch myself lying on occasion. But I am proud of my ability to be more honest with myself and those I genuinely care about.
I’ve found myself having more difficult conversations and facing the obvious red flags I used to ignore. And, even though I have had some awful moments and lost a lot of sleep, there has never been a moment where I regretted being honest.
Because I believe Buffet and Andy Frisella: honesty is the best gift you can ever give. By being honest with someone, you’re giving them the feedback they need to improve. This is why we love good coaches: they give us the constructive feedback we need to push through plateaus.
It may feel uncomfortable to voice your true opinion to a family member or a superior at work, but there is a lifetime filled with a clear conscious on the other side. I’m willing to put up with 15–60 seconds of awkwardness to live a life free of regret.
I also believe that your body rewards you for being honest. It feels fucking good to tell the truth, to not have to hide your real intentions. It also makes people respect you more.
I’m not really saying anything profound here. We all know that honesty is better than dishonesty. Duh.
So, why do we lie? Why do we sweep our friend’s drinking problem under the rug and tell our boss everything is going fine, even though we got passed up for a promotion yet again.
I believe we lie because our egos want to believe that everyone likes us. Telling the truth, in some cases, opens the door to rejection and resentment. Egos don’t like rejection. They don’t like any evidence that alters their perception of “I’m the star of my own movie.”
This is also why we lie to ourselves (rationalizations) even in the face of objective feedback and the immensely valuable honesty our friends and family bestow upon us (if we’re lucky).
It fucks with our ego’s self-perception, so we don’t let that information enter our brains. We rationalize away the uncomfortable truth that we have to change our identities to get better at life.
This is the vicious cycle of dishonesty. We’re not honest with ourselves because, hey, changing habits is hard work. An we’re all pretty lazy.
We’re not honest with the people we care the most about because we’re afraid the feedback might piss them off and push us even further away. We fear harming their egos and the backlash that could come with it.
But failing to give each other the truth sabotages our long-term happiness. It destroys the foundations of trust and respect in our relationships. I believe being dishonest with each other leads us down a path of shallow friendships and loneliness.
This is why I’m trying my hardest to be more forthright. I want all of the people I care about to be the best possible versions of themselves and sugar coating the truth or omitting it outright simply won’t get it done.
So, sorry in advance if my honesty offends you. You’ll get over it. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, as someone way smarter than me once said: the key to failure is pleasing everyone.