“Any story worth telling has been embellished a little bit, Skyco, but the best stories are born from an honest seed that simply grows a little in the retelling of it.”
Embellishment. Uhm. Lies.
It seems in today’s world of “results driven” we are actually encouraged to embellish (in business and in Life). Now. No one will say that, in fact, most people say “be truthful, say you were part of a team & bla bla bla …”. But in today’s soundbite non-nuanced world where we espouse “1st impression is all that matters”, well, you embellish. Okay. You lie.
Let’s be clear. Embellishment = lie. Period. In fact it may be worse than an outright lie because it is a gradation of a truth wherein instead of standing upon the size of the truth one elects to increase the size in order to make it, and self, look bigger. It’s a double lie. It’s a result/impact lie & it is a self lie.
While there is a lot of career survivalism found in embellishment I would argue much of our embellishment is founded upon ‘seeking status.’
Oddly, & uncomfortably, this is most often pointed out by looking at fathers (not mothers). Oddly, & most uncomfortably, this may also be one of our greatest lessons in trust, truth and forgiveness.
Viewed from the proper, reflective, perspective a father’s ‘embellishments’ can be viewed as the inspiration for truth.
Viewed from the proper, reflective, perspective a father’s ‘embellishments’ can make one realize you can still be friends with a liar.
- trying to make himself better than who he was?
- because the one force more powerful than a child wanting the admiration of a father is the father wanting the admiration of his child?
Insert yourself in a business environment and, well, it’s not that difficult to get there.
Sometimes we feel the need of the help of our imagination to achieve that status and then let the listener imagine how powerful, impactful & wise we are. It’s a game we play but it is a liar’s game that no one really wins.
Because the liar devil always gets his due. There will always be the moment where, as Herman Melville once wrote, “men drained of valor.”
I have pointed out many times a lot of good people, with good hearts and good intentions get trapped on the slippery slope of embellishment. And I envision fathers, or parents in general, if they are not very very careful can step onto this slope early on in their children’s lives and if they are not careful to nip the embellishment in the bud at a key point that little nugget of ‘not exactly truth’ has become a seed that will grow in their child’s minds. And that seed gets nourished by the sheer desire to look up to their father as they grow up. That little embellishment takes on a life of its own in the child’s mind.
This is exactly the same in business & resumes & stories upon which we build our careers.
Its easy to step onto this slope. Far far too easy.
Lie? Embellishment? Life is tricky. It gives us the appearance of solid ground yet we are surrounded by a variety of slippery slopes. Embellishments are one such slippery slope. The first step one takes may have been a harmless embellished facet of a larger truth given in a harmless reactive response. Or it could have been a conscious small lie. Either way it placed a foot on the slippery slope. Depending on that first embellishment things could have gained some momentum or it became a little easier to offer another. Either way you slide further down the slippery slope. Suffice it to say a lot of very good people get stuck on the slippery slope and cannot get back up. They are not bad people just simply people who cannot figure out how to stop the slide (they can slow it) nor can they get back on solid ground.
All that said.
Let’s say this person is simply a good person who got stuck on the slippery slope and you reached down and pulled him back up to solid ground (albeit a painful act for you … and the person I may add). You have achieved two good things. You were good enough to save someone from the slippery slope. You allowed a good person a second chance on solid ground.
And, hopefully, you will have learned the dangers of the slippery slope and can avoid it in your own life.
Anyway. Listen. Regardless of whether you can look back and honestly say you didn’t embellish or lie at some point you need to prepare to become human in the eyes of someone who expected you to maybe more than human (at least on occasion). Because whether you like it or not that type of relationship (particularly a parent but also a leadership position) does take on some superhuman characteristics.
Here is where embellishment gets its true footing.
People don’t realize that sometimes while they expect you to have all the answers you are making it up as you go. Sometimes that is what leadership is made up of. You know this but they don’t. So what you may be “winging” becomes stamped somewhere in their lives or memories as a ‘thoughtful action.’
Let’s face it. You are screwed if they have a great memory.
So. When you become a person facing your embellishments I would imagine while you are hoping for a variety of things a couple of ‘hopes’ stand out:
– Strength of character.
You have embodied the character needed in them to see through your flaws and see you as a good person doing the best they could.
– A recognition of perspective.
Being a grownup means choices. And recognizing choices. And not that someone didn’t make 100% good choices but that in the end they made enough good choices.
Here is what I do know:
Time + Silence = Miscellaneous Memories
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Sir Winston Churchill
Time is a tricky thing with memories. It is amazing the different memories we have. People who met you dozen years ago and then went away only to come back will have memories imprinted from then, even if you are different now. the embellishment then is a truth now.
There are repercussions for our actions – whether they are conscious actions or not. This includes embellishments. Mostly because, while we would like to view them as embellishments, ultimately, they will be judged as lies.