Honesty’s Net Worth


I recently told a friend of mine I had discovered James Altucher.

He said “Oh, he’s a great read! I love reading his stuff. He’s totally crazy.”

At the time, I didn’t understand. But after reading more of Altucher’s work, I realized what he was referring to: Altucher’s frankness1.

As I’ve continued to enjoy his work, including his new book, a question started to burn in my mind, growing with each post and chapter.

Today’s Altucher-post answered it: Do You Have To Be Rich To Be Honest?

It’s a great read. You should go read it.

Right. Now.


I had been struggling with exactly this question for some time.

I learned The Hard WayTM that so-called open door policies may not, in fact, actually be about the open and honest communication of ideas.

As a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed build engineer2, I made the mistake of taking that particular managerial concept at face value and assumed that “Please post your feedback” actually meant “We want to know what everyone is thinking” not “Everyone needs to submit their agreement in writing, so it can be later referenced, in case there is any dissent.”

And so, like a dumbass, I gave my opinion. My full and honest opinion. Sincere, too. On any issue that was asked.

I assumed that’s what they wanted; they asked for it, after all.


Of course, since that’s not what the exercise was about, that failed.

In an ill-fated attempt to “fix” it, I tried espousing the official line.

That, too, failed: as Altucher points out, people can totally tell when you’re doing that. (It turns out: both the people telling you to repeat what they’ve said, and the people listening.)

That lesson really stung.

It was probably exacerbated by the fact that I didn’t get the right take away at the time; Altucher explained today what it actually is:

If you are going to lose a job by being more honest, should you stay in that job? My guess is you’ll be a lot happier in another job. Will you lose your girlfriend if you tell her the truth? My guess is you probably would be happier with someone different if she really would leave you upon hearing the truth. Or maybe you honestly don’t know her (or him) as well as you think you do.

He’s spot on, but like so many of his posts, I think what he’s really saying is “You need to have faith.” In this case, faith in the idea that being honest to yourself and to those around you will, over the long term, work out for the better3.

Having faith is really hard work4. Whenever Altucher discusses it, he never for a moment implies that it isn’t arduous and difficult.

But then… I guess so is lying constantly5.

1 Which, if his frankness is any indication of how he lives his life, leads—predictably—to crazy stories
2 Are build engineers ever bright-eyed or bushy-tailed?
3 Probably for everyone
4 A lesson I’ve only recently begun exploring
5 Or telling everyone “Yes sir, your idea is perfect; thank you sir.”