A friend, who is a restauranteur, once joked – “If a restaurant brands itself as “authentic x cuisine,” it is probably not authentic.” Like a lot of good humor, there is some truth to it.

Most companies, regardless of size, describe themselves as entrepreneurial, transparent and all about work-life balance. Many resumes use words like “self starters” and “lifelong learners.”

This is similar to the authentic cuisine problem. It makes sense that we throw these words out in the hopes of influencing people who’re searching for folks like us. But, how long before we’re found out?

A crazy idea – stick to simple words that you know to be true. In the long run, they do better than some aspirational marketing strategy that’s just not real. As a bonus, you’ll also learn to see things as they are instead of how you’d like them to be.

We need to be able to understand reality before we’re able to influence it.

One lie

We’ve all likely lied in our lifetime. I certainly lied a ton when I was a kid and then a few times as an adult. Someone dear to me once said – “Just be honest. If you start with one lie, you’ll need a hundred others to cover up.”

It is a line that has proven true time and time again. Lying wraps us in a quagmire as it makes things incredibly complicated. We need to be careful, watch every step, and make sure we never say anything inconsistent. It requires constant focus to keep up a false story.

Clay Christensen, in his wonderful book “How Will You Measure Your Life?,” said there is no such thing as 99% honest. He didn’t allow for any slack. You were either honest or not.

I’ve attempted to take this approach to life to heart. And, it still cracks people who know me well up. I don’t say “yes” to the casual – “We should grab coffee sometime.” I have actually stopped saying that line. If I say “yes,” I make sure I put time on the other person’s calendar for coffee. Here’s why – the next time I see that person, I won’t have to come up with some white lie about why we didn’t catch up. I also wouldn’t have reneged on a verbal commitment. Honesty and integrity win.

I get that saying “yes, absolutely” to social nice-ities and not following up is normal. But, I find that the long run cost of such flimsy commitments is actually very high. We get used to not keeping small promises. And, we get used to small white lies and a few other lies to cover up. At what point does a lie or a promise get big enough to warrant serious attention, then?

Hence my promise to myself – no flimsy promises and no white lies. And, by extension, no bullshit. If I say something, I will do my best to follow up. It’s been a simple, liberating and happy approach to life with a conspicuous absence of baggage. Long may that continue. And, long may we all avoid starting with one lie…