7 Things Happen to You When You Are Completely Honest

completely honest

I got a death threat last week from a guy who is a senior at Brown University who didn’t think I could track him down.

More on that in a second.

The first thing I want to deal with is the question asked me the other day, “how do you make a personal brand”. When I hear the words “personal brand” I think “someone is going to lie to me and then try to take all of my money.”

Personal branding, I guess, is descended from the mockery called “corporate branding”.

The Coca-Cola company, for instance, loves the drug, Ecstasy. My favorite TV commercial is  not the 1984 Apple commercial (although that’s a close number two) but a commercial for Coke Zero (“Coke Zero Roller Girl”).

It takes a song that was originally written by  Paul Oakenfold. The original topic of the song was about how great it was to take the drug Ecstasy and go to a rave.

Anything could happen.

There would be pretty girls, great music, and at the end of the night, total communion with nature. In the commercial, though, there’s a girl roller-blading. She looks like she’s on the boardwalk in Santa Monica.

The song is playing in the background.

She’s not taking Ecstasy but drinking Coke Zero. She dances/roller-blades around her studly friends, her beautiful girlfriends, and it ends with everyone taking Coke Zero, the fizz going up like a group ejaculation into the sky.

Coke Zero – the brand where you can find your own personal ecstasy.

I Want That

Whenever I watch that commercial I feel like I want a life like that: free from worry, stress, free from thinking about money or petty jealousies. Surrounded by friends and beautiful people. Moving without effort, the ocean in the background.

As they say in the song: “once again, I find myself with my friends.” Coke Zero tells me the dream is possible even though intellectually I know its a myth.

Freedom isn’t found that way. But we’re willing, as a culture, to accept the lies that Coke tells us. And they are willing to use songs about drugs to help us accept those lies.

Perhaps Coke figured out that maybe this time they had gone too far. They pulled the commercial. Sometimes I can find it on YouTube. Sometimes I can’t. They try hard to make it disappear.

What they never explain is that coke zero is essentially brown-dyed water with about 16 teaspoons of fake sugar in it and add a little bit of CO2 and you make it fizz. That’s the secret formula that’s locked in a safe in some bank in Atlanta.

I can make SuperJamesCola with that formula. But then I can’t license that music, get those sexy girls, and run that ad on the Super Bowl and a thousand other places.

I can’t do corporate branding by myself.

But no matter – let’s move past the artificially safe confines of corporate America. That’s dead and if you haven’t planned your exit strategy yet you will have to soon enough.

So What Is Personal Branding?

So now I keep hearing about “personal branding” –  the idea that your career, your mind, your body, everything that makes up the superficial “you” can be packaged up into a brand just like Coke or Mcdonalds can.

With the spectrum of pornography allowed by Facebook, twitter, linkedin, google+, etc etc etc a personal brand can evolve and grow like any superbowl ad.

Kim Kardashian’s didn’t have an answer when Barbara Walters asked her, finally, “but aren’t you really just known for a sex tape?” when Kim initially tried to “re-brand” herself as a “businesswoman” in a very intimate interview.

So we start to arrive at the truth of the matter: Branding is lying.

But personal branding is even worse because the joke is over. Now we’re talking about me and you. We’re talking about who YOU are. And let’s face it. It’s not pretty. You need to re-brand from birth.

People confuse “honesty” with a type of “happiness”. He can be honest because he is happy.

But it’s not true.

Life is a series of failures punctuated by brief successes. That’s honesty. Failure is not necessarily bad. It’s reality.

But branding tries to reverse that.

With a “personal brand”, you suddenly pretend to be super successful, a “businesswoman” in Kardashian’s case – failure is non-existent, and out of your mind comes the exact mathematical formulas that if someone drinks your Cola and snorts your Ecstasy then they too will  have the pretty girl, the success, the money, the accoutrements.

A Friend of Mine Who Does Personal Branding

I know a stockbroker who sends a Christmas card every year to his clients. He wants to present an aura of success.

Each time he’s in some other blue lagoon on some random part of the world, with a blonde girl (different each Christmas) with huge fake breasts and they are snorkeling or hugging in the water (blue blue aqua) or staring off into a beautiful mediterranean ancient city.

He makes money. Lots of it.

And you can’t even look at him, the girl is so beautiful and her eyes are staring at him and she’s kissing him and it’s all over his facebook page.

His status might even be “engaged” and she has an exotic name.

The only problem is, “and you can’t tell anyone because this is the beautiful part” he is telling me in his tell-all because he’s a good friend and knows I will never reveal his name: is that he’s gay. He picks up his boyfriends in dungeons.

He’s been smothered in concrete until he was unable to move and holes would be poked through so he could breathe, and only then with a boy whipping him and arranging this unusual punishment, would his copulation come to completion.

Honesty is about the scars. it’s about the blemishes.  But it’s more than just bragging about failure, which could be a form of ego. It’s about truly helping people.

There’s 1 trillion websites competing against each other. The most honest website of all? Google. Google can’t help you with your problems.

If you suspect you might have herpes after a particularly courageous night out on the town, going to Google will not help you (although you may feel a vague feeling of remorse when you see the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button).

Google has no content on it at all. But Google is honest about that.

You just walked into their store and said, “Please, help me – do you have anything to prevent a potential outbreak of herpes” and Google will say, quite honestly, “i’m sorry, I can’t help you, but here are ten of my competitors who can potentially help you.

And, by the way, here are three more of my competitors who MIGHT be able to help you but, in full disclosure, they are paying me to tell you this.” And then Google shrugs its shoulders. That’s all they can do for you.

But that’s honesty. That’s not branding. So you’ll come back to them. Because they are a straight shooter and the target was on your head.

And when you need to know about that growth behind your ear, or what the best software is for keystroke logging, they will say the same thing: “sorry, we can’t help you – but we can direct you to at least ten of our competitors who seem pretty decent at it.”

With honesty they’ve set themselves free. Here’s the thing about a brand. It puts you in jail.

You know who had the original patent that Larry Page tweaked into the PageRank that made Google (and separately, that Robin Li ALSO tweaked into the patent that became Baidu?) I’ll tell you: Dow Jones. The Wall Street Journal.[See, “10 Unusual Things About Google”]

They knew how to make Google years before Larry Page even thought of the idea.

But they didn’t do it. Why? Because their brand says they don’t give out stuff for free.

Their brand says that everything you need to know is trapped inside something with the Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones trademarks printed on it and if it’s not there then it’s not anywhere.

Branding jails corporate America but honesty sets entrepreneurs free.


#1 People will stop speaking to you…

Forget personal branding. Start to dip your toes into personal honesty. Let me tell you what will happen. Your family might stop speaking to you.

I have experienced this not just from myself but all of the bloggers I consider “honest bloggers”. Some  of your friends will also stop speaking to you. Some of your colleagues will avoid you. Some investors will shun you. Your personal “network” will transform and shift.

My own personal motto is: honesty to a point. I will never harm anyone. I believe in what Buddha said to his son Rahula the day after he showed up after abandoning his son for 7 years:

before, during, and even AFTER you say something, make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone.

But even despite that rule, people will stop speaking to you because not every hurt you can control. Historical is hysterical for many people.

#2 People will think you are going to kill yourself…

The next thing that will happen is people will ask “are you killing yourself?” Because every blog post almost seems like a suicide note. 

#3 People will think you are crazy…

Then people will send emails to your friends, “is he as crazy as he sounds?” And that’s how I make friends now because introductions will be made and people will have to find out for themselves.

#4 People will get frightened…

So they will call you names. Oh, that guy is just trying to be a “contrarian”, for instance. Or an “idiot”. Or worse. I’ve been called everything. I had to call the Brown University Public Safety office the other day because I got emailed a death threat and the guy didn’t think I could track him. The guy was a senior and had also apparently threatened the life of a librarian there.

They need to understand why you are telling the truth. Why you are being honest about what you really think. In meetings at the office everyone is quiet.

You’re not supposed to speak up. So people will dislike you, try to put you down, post comments, whatever. In many cases (but not all) these are what I call “crappy people”. And here’s how to deal with them. 

#5 People will find you entertaining…

Then finally, people will come back to you. Because you’re entertaining – if 20000 people are lying and only 1 person is telling the truth then that 1 person is going to stand taller than anyone. At first people will come back to you for voyeuristic reasons.

Why? Because they know if they watch Real Housewives they aren’t watching anything “Real” and they aren’t watching “Housewives”. But you’re real. So they want to know what you’ll do next.

#6 People will trust your advice…

People will also come back for advice. Not always because they agree with you. But because they know the advice is coming from the heart and not because there is anything for sale.

It’s like Google can’t cure anything. But they can direct you to all the people who can. So you go back to Google because you might not always find what you want but at least you know they are trying hard to direct you to the right place.

We’ve all hidden our failures in dark comets orbiting the peripheral edges  of the solar system, where the sun is dark and faded. But when someone brings their orbit close  to the sun we want to land there for a brief moment and see if actual living conditions exist. And if so, then maybe a small settlement can be formed, advice can be asked, a failure can be related to, a friendship can be formed.

#7 You become free…

At first we hug our boundaries in chains. We think “if we tell the girl we like her, she might not like me back”. We think, “If I say I like this candidate, my friends might hate me.” If I say X, everyone else might say Y. And so on.

But more and more we start to feel where those boundaries are and we push them out. We push them further and further away from ourselves. Until finally they are so far away it’s as if they don’t exist at all. You don’t need money for that. Or a big house. Or a fancy degree or car. Every day, just push out those boundaries a little further.

We reach for that freedom. We never truly get there. We’re always striving to see how far they can go, just like a little child with her parents. But eventually, the boundaries are so far away we begin to feel the pleasures of true freedom.

And it feels good.

You might also like:

The 20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires

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  • But what advice do you have for the myriad of Paris Hilton wannabes who feel that have to brand themselves so that they can share their “instrument” with the masses?

    That is, other than the obvious recommendation of making a sex tape with you. (Note: These people have 1) No ability to listen to others speaking to them; 2 ) Probably have already one botched suicide attempt in their history; 3) Plenty of people already think they’re crazy; 4) No one will listen long enough to get frightened by them; 5) Have no entertainment related talents; 6) Have no meanigful advice to give; and  7) are already in a boundariless existence

    Yes. I’m talking about myself.

    • Ha, you’re like Super Dentist Academic so we know people either listen to your or get their teeth pulled out by you as soon as you shut them up. 

      But, take Kim Kardashian as an example. perhaps her sex tape WAS her version of being honest but her statement now that she is a “businesswomen” is her degrading herself into “personal branding”

      • The two possibilities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The teeth can still be extracted, even if they listen. Isn’t that the true measure of a psychopath? Meting out punishment when people think that they’ve done everything to avoid that outcome?

        Your Kim Kardashian comment is interesting. Again, the two choices don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Can you not be a business woman by virtue of hawking your sex tapes?

        Do you believe that her attempt to trade her sex tape personna for that of a businesswoman degrading because she is branding or because she’s trying to go “respectable”? (I suppose those don’t have to be mutually exclusive, either)

        • Brian H

          Yup. T&A always sells!

  • So true.  People claim that they want “honesty” and value people “being real,” but if one really wants honesty, then they should also accept not being offended by what people are going to say.  

  • One of your best posts, James. Here’s a story for you. About 10 years ago, I “threw away” everything I had going for me, so I thought, for an honest appraisal of my life – friends, family, acquaintances, things, achievements, and so on – and undertook a sea change in my life. I was a liar, a cheat and a whole bunch of other things that I wasn’t proud of. I was, and remain, successful in business, but was not happy with ‘me.’ Essentially, I had created a myth about myself, what you call a “personal brand.” I could have kept up appearances, gotten laid anytime  I wanted, gone to any party, and been accepted, if not embraced, by others… all for what I came to realize were the wrong reasons.

    At first, everything went according to your ennumerated list you gave. Then I was able to break out of the cocoon I had crysalised myself into and started living life the right way. What I wasn’t able to see years ago but I can now is what others really feel about me and that now, they really listen. The street cred I had years ago was not believed, but it was accepted. Now it’s believed. And that’s worth everything to me.

    • John, I know exactly what you mean. I think it’s a difficult transition. You risk losing that  exterior, the exterior of the caterpillar right before it magically turns into a butterfly. 

  • “We’ve all hidden our failures in dark comets orbiting the peripheral edges  of the solar system” – great image ;-)
    and liked the follow up about landing at a near-the-sun place, to “see if actual living conditions exist”

    thanks james!

  • Great points and thanks for discussing them at the conference.

    • GY, it was great to meet in person. Thanks for introducing yourself. 

      • Was my pleasure sir.

  • Great stuff, James — just like the conference panel. You killed it.

    Thanks for making it a success!

    • Thanks Barry, for inviting me there. Helped me to formulate my thoughts on this as I was responding. 

  • And thanks for taking the time to talk to me in the hallway at lunch, appreciate it. All my best for you and for Claudia and the kids.

  • “Lying can be divided into two types: white lies and black lies.  A black lie is a statement we make that we know is false.  A white lie is a statement we make that is not in itself false but that leaves out a significant part of the truth.” — Scott Peck

  • Andrew_Ferri

    James I love this post.  Recently everyone keeps telling me to get on Linkedin to help me find a  job. I hate Linkedin because it makes public to everyone the fact that I’m unemployed and that’s embarrassing to me.  Not as a severe case of shame as your friend who has been made to feel ashamed of his sexuality, but I can relate in this way.  I also love this post because I feel that I am honest.  I set a goal for myself about ten years ago that I was going to be the same person no matter what room I was in.  I didn’t want to fake it anymore.  And, like you mentioned I scared a lot of people away (I might have been able to get them back if I had some ecstasy pills) and lost a few jobs along the way.  Now I blog openly which is highly therapeutic, and in the process of scarring people away, I attracted the most important person in the world to me.  She is the most honest person I have ever met.  Again, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your gift of enlightenment with everyone.  As far as that death threat, people have told me they want to kill me plenty of times, I’m still here.  I got your back brother…

    • Andrew, thanks. From what I can tell you are very fortunate in many ways. You are right that sometimes there are downturns when the “honesty bug” hits. That happened to me in very bad ways. But look what happened to you. Meeting that life partner is worth everything. 

  • MJR

    You never talked about the death threat.  You weren’t honest.  You caught our attention with the first couple of sentences and then didn’t deliver.  Just like many personal brands don’t deliver.  

    • I did! I called the dept of public safety at Brown. the detective there told me the kid was a senior and about to graduate. He also told me the kid had threatened the life of a librarian there as well. He said he was going to talk to the kid himself. So I left it at that. I didn’t want to go further but I did mention to the detective that Brown was the hardest school in the country to get into and it seems weird that this kind of kid is what they are about to unleash into society. I got a laugh out of that and then got off the phone. 

      • GSL

        Eh. Brown is no CalTech.

  • Kevin Meyers

    (Diet Coke, not Coke Zero)

    Great post

  • James, thanks for this wonderful post. As many times before, you just set the bar a little higher.
    Thanks for your honesty. I will do the same. And I look forward to meet you and talk to you. I currently live in Montreal. Have a good time with Claudia. I hope she feels better and also hope the children are doing great.

  • ‘Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinion, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.’ Oscar Wilde
    ‘The beauty of truth: whether it is bad or good, it is liberating.’ Paulo Coelho
    Yet another excellent post James. Thank you.

  • ‘Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinion, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.’ Oscar Wilde
    ‘The beauty of truth: whether it is bad or good, it is liberating.’ Paulo Coelho
    Yet another excellent post James. Thank you.

  • I like being honest, but I do keep a level of privacy.  This is a major struggle I have within myself, since I want to keep some things private, I then question my honesty.

    What I keep to myself, if told, wouldn’t hurt anyone, except me. So I suppose I am within the guideline of being “honest as long as you don’t hurt anyone.”…..I never before considered myself in the “anyone” category.

    Now I do. Thanks

  • I have to confess that of all the blogs I follow, your blog is the most “honest” I’ve seen. So honest that sometimes I am inspired by it to make honest changes in my life, and so honest that sometimes I am repulsed and bewildered and have to stop reading. But I always come back. Thanks for what you’re doing. I started a blog less than three weeks ago and in some funny way I feel like there is a bit of your influence in it that there wouldn’t have been before I started reading you! Feels weird. I’m not you, of course, but I’m trying to find my own self. Thanks for being you!

  • Mike S

    One of my favorite posts by you.

    I constantly find myself afraid to say what I really feel.  Both at work and with my friends (worse).  There is also nervousness and anxiety associated with this.  I don’t want to come off as different or foolish in anyone’s eyes, and I have a certain image or reputation to uphold.  This makes me afraid of saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way.  I agree wholeheartedly that honesty sets you free.  I think the most important and difficult thing about this is remembering it.  Easy to read and agree with it here but following it in the moment is much more difficult.  

  • GSL

    As they said on Chappelle’s Show, keep pushing that Real-O-Meter into the red, James. Great stuff.

  • I’ve been thinking about these lines, but using the word “vulnerability.”  Opening oneself up, no walls, no agendas, just being who I am.  The irony is that it makes me more confident and stronger as I’m purely going on who I am, not who others want me to be.  Good place to be.

  • Julian


    There is a french saying “il n’y a que la vérité qui blesse” (“only truth hurts”). Yourself, other people or both. Though sometimes one has to push/hurt/harm people if one wants them to progress (which, as you say, is arrogant won’t happen), or at least get them of the way (which is certainly what was actually wanted in the first place).

    Being publicly honest about yourself and what you think is mostly OK. Even then, your public reputation can cause unpredictable issues to your loved ones. This is true of any dad occupation anyway, and there are benefits too. For example your kids will learn to deal with it, which in itself is very valuable.

    But you already know that being publicly honest in place of others is not. It can really, badly harm (even kill) because some people are unable to deal with the consequences and will never be. You posted already posted examples of you goofing in the past on this blog, with some unhappy endings.

    Now I really hope that your personal branding example above, supposedly a friend of yours, is actually made up or largely altered from reality (or really old). The world is small, the guy will recognize himself, and if it’s real there are people that are very quick at connecting things and spreading the word. “and you can’t tell anyone” – you even acknowledged that this guy trusted you. Maybe now he is in the #1 above, just not for the reasons you listed.

    Google knows how many times you looked for anything and can easily link it to your name or location. People so far trust Google for advice not because it’s “honest”. Honesty has nothing to do there, you would not use “honest” to describe a good voltmeter or a phonebook either. Actually Google results are skewed for a lot of good or legal reasons, but it’s still very accurate.

    People trust Google because it can be trusted, i.e. it won’t screw you. It won’t remove competitor/unpaid/arbitrary stuff from the results because the management decided that they want it to lie to you for their profit. And more importantly, so far it made a reasonably good job NOT leaking what it learned about you personally through your searches to the public.

    See #6? People won’t even ASK you if they can’t trust you for keeping things confidential. Even if your answers are honest.

    Honesty is not just about truth. It’s also about integrity and ethics, which are not just about truth either, but more about trust.

    tl;dr stop outing your friends.


    • To add what Julian said….some things can be classified as “honest” but can be very tasteless and crude.

      Take for example, most people on reality shows….they are in their mind just being honest and who they are and saying whatever pops in to their heads.

      But its very disgusting

      or look at celebrities whose tweets involve tasteless jokes about others.

      They are all supposedly being honest and saying what’s on their mind….but not every little thought should be shared

      Honesty is also about filtering certain things

      and as for honesty….you can say an honest statements in many different ways

      you can be honest and provoke a negative reaction…or be honest and get a positive reaction

      like for example, if your spouse ask you…hey do i look fat?

      and your answer would be “yes…you are fat and i find you ugly these days…why dont you exercise more”

      even though it was honest, it would be wrong

      but other than that, i think James is right…there is too much fakeness out there…too many facades …too many masks

      let us be more authentic …all of us

    • Brian H

      The author and a lot of people here are giving Google way more props than it deserves. It actively downrates sites it disapproves of.  Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  

      • Fair enough point, but I’d have to disagree that it doesn’t deserve the “props” given it, here.

        Here’s an example: Let’s say that you own a store. You come to find something out about the owner of a particular brand of soda. Now we’ll attach that to something that your own sense of morality is offended by and therefore feels that they are causing harm (eg. they are chopping down rain forests, killing pandas for sugar cane, had an offensive ad against people who are [criteria here])

        As a business owner, you have the right the choose to not order from them and to not display the product of that company. The big misnomer of today is that when a business becomes large enough, (or some integral part of society such as Google, Facebook, etc) they must be held to a democratic standard. While I *certainly* agree that this might be considered idea,l (who doesn’t want to have it their way, right?) the reality is that it is a business. As such, we retain our right to criticize the business and go elsewhere.

        The bottom line is, if Google, or any other company, for that matter, wants to survive, they must keep the public happy, but the decision on how they conduct their business is ultimately theirs.

        The one praise that I must give Google in that regard is that they have maintained their success by not only listening to, but anticipating what their customers want. Google isn’t the government. They have literally no responsibility to provide all content out there with no bias or filtration. If they did, we’d see all sorts of child pornography and other things. That said, Google has appeared to be one of the most balanced and un-filtered services out there, barring only extremes (such as kiddy porn).

        While this may seem to be a giant praise of Google, believe me in that I do not see everything they do as wonderful. The high societal reliance upon one corporation is actually terrifying, in ways, and leaves us to only watch and see what will happen.

        Facebook is an example of a corporate titan for whom certain business policies and mentality simply disgust me. But in spite of my dissatisfaction, the logical side of me has to remind myself, it’s their business. They paid for it; they started it; they can do whatever they want with it! I always have the option to find or build something else that does it how I want. And, let’s face it, if they screw it up badly enough, it will soon be a forgotten memory, buried next to MySpace.

        To date, every empire has fallen, and I cannot think of one where negligence to its vox populi is not a closely connected factor, if not the ultimate cause.

  • Serious question:
    If you could be a succesful rockstar or a succesful businessman, wich one would you choose?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Anonymous


  • mary

    James, if you want to be free from suffering, you have to live in harmony with reality. It is you that you ultimately have to live with, second by second. If you don’t, then life will jack you over, because you are blocking out portions of of the causal relations of your world. Without a clear view, you will make uninformed choices. That is your reward for being honest.

    You remind me so much of myself several years ago. You think too much about status and money. James, you know deep down that these things do not mean shit. You simplify and separate your wants vs. needs, and money becomes much less of an issue. You associate with people who are on the same path, and there is your organically grown real status.

    You appear to live in regret. Well, do the best you can, paying attention minute by minute, and over time, your regret will organically disappear. Maybe you need to really, really hit rock bottom—I mean, like have a life threatning illness or lose a bunch of loved ones in a row, to really see this. Maybe not.

    Your stomach issues are a lot like mine. You really need to find out what you are intolerant to foodwise, and cut it out completely. If you have an autoimmune issue, like celiac, I can guarantee you that part of your mental agony is due to cytocines interfering with neural function. 

    You are on the right path. Your practice is not in vain. You will reap the rewards of peace of mind if you keep it up diligently.

    • Patrick

      James will probably respond positively to your post, because he has more patience than most… but I’ll interject my own thoughts: You come off as super-duper condescending!

      • mary

        Patrick, this is not condescending at all. You have miscontrued. He is honest enough to share the stream of thoughts that go through his head. He speaks of Buddhist practice often, and this is hard core dharma response and not at all judgemental. If he were to see council from a Buddhist monk, very similar sentiments would be shared.

        We have a habit of interjecting a lot of harmful static into our heads. I admire him for at least being honest, but the only way to separate yourself from self loathing and anxiety is to cut yourself off from the causes. James knows this. A lot of well meaning people enable self defeating practices. James knows this.

        If anything, I hope to serve as a reminder for him to keep up his practice.

        Good luck James—keep up your practice and you will get there.


  • Right on point, James.  I think I’ve dabbled with all 7 on your checklist, but only with a very select audience, lol.

  • I think point number 8 should be that “People can relate to you”

    when someone is honest, I can relate to them…

  • Also…

    there are never any fat people in “feel good” commercials

    no fat people in beer commercials …no fat people on baywatch 

    No fat people are hired as extras…no fat people anywhere….except on the news segment talking about obesity being an epidemic

    • FatJack

      What about John Belushi? Jim Candy? Jack Black? Roseanne Barr? Oprah Winfrey? Gene Simmons? Just to mention a few.
      Naw, dude,,,fat people are/were everywhere. Shamelessly, even, like Gina de Miranda. Fat is the new thin!

    • Gus

      Jackie Gleason to Roseann Barr.

  • AFan

    As usual love your post.  But I’m going to turn it back on you (I’ve done this to you a couple times in the past :) ).

    Do you ever turn this “honesty” lens back on yourself?  For example, a few days ago, you were highly critical of George Soros who was pictured holding a drink between two women one quarter his age.  Ironically, you seemed worried about him; even going so far as to say he seemed “mentally ill”. (http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/10/the-six-diseases-billionaires-get/)
    To me THAT’S honesty (George Soros’ actions, not your response).  Many people would love to be doing exactly what Soros is doing, but they won’t for fear of people like you going “tsk, tsk, tsk”.

    So have you ever considered the possibility that you’re being overly judgmental of other “honest” people?  People who perhaps are doing things the way you think they should be done?

    • AFan

      Sorry, that last sentence should read “People who perhaps are NOT doing things the way you think they should be done?”

    • Mememimimine

      every day.
      said I was honest – I did not deny being a tyrant.

    • Brian H

      Soros’ “honesty” is the arrogance following from his decision at age 14 that he was God, able to do anything without consequence.  As a result of prospering by ratting out his Jewish family, relatives and friends to the Nazis.  

  • Bilbo

    Oh yes, I hear where you’re coming from.

    It’s the moment you let go of everything, your worries, your fears, your lies and even friends; only then you will start to experience the liberation of honesty and the good things that come with it.

  • Anonymous

    3 things struck me about your article.
    1. You make Google sound like the Santa at Gimbles from the old movie “Miracle on 34th St.”. In the movie Santa is honest with all the mothers, telling them where to buy the cheapest presents. As a result everyone is loyal to Gimbles.
    2. How is it possible for a person to make it to his senior year in college and be so stupid? What is his major? Communication studies? Art something? Of course you tracked him down. Why would a senior at Brown (likely a very priviledged child) have so much anger he would direct it at a blogger and a librarian?
    3. Now the senior knows you ratted him out! What if he is dangerous? Or crazy? Or both?

    • Well, I guess I am worried about #3.

      • johndoe

        it’s brown. they don’t have a required core. he could have been taking bomb building for the last four years for all you know…

      • johndoe

        it’s brown. they don’t have a required core. he could have been taking bomb building for the last four years for all you know…

  • Great post! I’ve recently been inspired (by Montaigne) to remake my blog into a more self reflective and expansive blog (in terms of subject), but it scares me to ever put my actual name on it.  Unfortunately, I’m still at the mercy of corporate America, and if the second link that comes up for my name in Google is my article:”Trading is a billion dollar industry built on a coinflip”, I’m pretty much done. Your 7 notes above pretty much sum up exactly what I would like to do with the blog, but does an alias ever detract from the content? You and others have met me in real life, so it’s not like I’m hiding in some shadow. 

    Things I would love to declare or shout from the rooftops about my industry, the market, or just life even, I’d love to put my name to, but currently remain slightly in the shadows.

    • I struggle with the same thing.  I blog under an alias right now but sometimes feel that doing it under my own name would be better and more truthful.  But in this day and age, and especially in certain fields, you have to protect yourself.  In the end, we have to remember that it’s not lying to just be smart and use common sense.  If anyone ever walked up to me and point-blank asked if I had written something, I would say yes.

  • Nice effort, very informative. Thanks for share it keep it up.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, James.  Every day I look for your posts in my RSS reader.  When I see one, I read everything else first.  I read all the other babble before I get a shot of truth and honesty.  Then I open a gem like this one and I’m blown away.  Keep up the great work. 

  • I like the statement: don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.

    And where did Kim Kardashian get that butt? Seriously, I have never seen her in real life so maybe photos are shopped (?)

    As for honesty and others – I think we do ourselves a disservice when we expect other people to be honest. (or if we try to hold them to a level of honesty that they have not reached)  If you don’t accept people for what and who they are – you end up with disappointments. It’s their life, you’re not going to change them.

    I have to remind myself not everyone is at the very same point on their own life’s path – and I will never know their entire whole truthful story of their existence. (nor do I want to) ( we even fool ourselves as to our own past memories)

    As for what they put on TV and stars and various high visible personalities – don’t expect too much honesty.  It’s all about making money – but we already knew that.

  • John Arndt

    all that sounds great, but where do I start???

  • If I had it to do over, I would definitely go the honest and open route.  As for lies, like George Costanza said “I’m living like 14 of them”

  • James,

    I love all of your posts and I love what you are saying in this post about honesty, but I have to take issue with the blanket comment of “Branding is lying.”

    True branding is being an honest, good company that does what they say they will do.  Sometimes a company is just that but needs help putting it into words and sometimes companies are the exact opposite of that and still tries to make their face pretty.  

    I brand myself in my industry because I want people to associate me, my face, my name with what I do and that I do it well and in an ethical manner.  My brand is one of honesty, ethics, and results. BUT I established those qualities first.  In this day and age, technology is making it more and more difficult to lie about who you are as a company or even person.  I think that branding is important but it has to be organic, in other words, you can’t say you are something and then become it, you have to become it and then say you are it.  That is true honesty, otherwise you are lying to yourself AND the people you are communicating with.

    I hope this makes sense, branding its self isn’t inherently bad, just the way people use it to manipulate.

    • Brian H

      Honest people rarely or never claim to be honest. They’re too honest to do so.

      When someone claims honesty, watch the other hand.  

      • Lynn Fabia


        That is a fact of life. If someone is constantly being defensive of how honest they are, their very own opinions may not even be honest.

    • Herp McDerp

      In this day and age, technology is also making it easier and easier to lie about who you are as a company or person. Creating fake facebook, twitter and linkedin accounts is easy as pie, and they seldom get banned. Blackhat SEO/Social Media practices have been around for years.

      What fantasy world are you living in, bro?

    • Gus

      I’m with you on the branding. Though it was well written.

  • MikeH

    Google summary – brilliant! They are like the salesperson who tells you this is the item on special, but they actually use this other one over here because it is better. Except in real life, when you go back to that place because that person was so helpful, they no longer work there. 

  • I have to think that ‘personal branding’ wouldn’t even be a term if we weren’t so reliant upon others for money, relationships, etc…freedom is quitting your addiction to others

  • Sumit Sabharwal

    Truly Inspirational!!! From mid-teens till the mid 20’s I was obsessed with reading the newspaper (back in the day when it was dropped on the doorstep) and the day the newspaper wasn’t there my day wasn’t complete! Your blog has taken that place now! I look forward to what you have to say everyday! Keep it coming so the readers can keep challenging themselves and the things around them!

  • I think you know honesty when you see it and you can’t help but be drawn to it. Thanks for clarifying that for me.
    My favorite writer was Walt Whitman. He was able to be more honest than other writers because he self-published and self-distributed his own books, all by himself.

  • Anonymous

    These are some very truly enlightening views, and mine are too. I DON’T LIE. I am the most honest and upfront person you will EVER meet. I lie at NO time for NO one for NO cause!

    ……..It’s a beautiful life, never having to think “What did I tell THIS person the last time I saw them?” ..and I have a great memory, but it allows me to use that space or other productive thoughts. I am a simple inventor/designer and if something does not make sense, it therefore, is not sensible. Numbers and micrometers do not lie and I deal with factual data. 

    Now it has it’s down side at times but very few as it is very hard to argue against the truth. I am brutally honest and for those light and breezy questions, such as being at a party and an old girl friend is wearing a terrible looking dress, I will not even give it the chance to put myself there in a bad position, and if she catches me and puts me there, I simply bring the strongest good point about the dress, such as “Is it flammable” but I am asking out of concern for you.

    But I am a great friend to those that need an honest opinion and I am even my own devils advocate, it’s the nature of my business. “Does it work as designed, OR am I going to kill someone with this creation?”

    The beauty of it all, I sleep well, people know that when I say something I meant it because I said it, they know they have heard the profound truth from a critical thinker, I know who my friend’s are, and I can look in the mirror every day knowing I can think about today and look into the future rather than wonder what did I say yesterday? J.D. Gragg

    • Anonymous

      Great post man. Made me smile. Thanks for sharing!

    • Gdod

      Honesty is socially acceptable in trivial matters but if the truth is bad news ie politics, enviroment, etc, people don’t want to hear it. This is why polititians lie. Example: forgive my spelling, I went to public school. :)

      • Brian H

        Children who lie most easily and effectively grow up to be leaders and politicians.  The ability to shape men’s minds …

  • Zeke


    As always, your articles are thought provoking whether I agree with them or not, which is what makes reading your blog so addictive! When I entered my current relationship nearly 20 years ago, I was borderline pathological with my lying. For me, lying was just easier than telling the truth. Or so I thought. I nearly destroyed my relationship with my future wife, my family, my employer, and my friends.

    When I finally turned to the truth (a last resort?), I did lose my job and most of my friends, I lost touch with my family, and had to reboot my girlfriend’s relationship almost from scratch. Rebuilding was the hardest thing I have ever done, but you know what? Living my life became the easiest thing I have ever done after that. Lies are like lead weights that drag you to the bottom of the lake.

    I still withhold truths sometimes – the lie of omission, especially at work (years of toxic work environments makes this side-effect almost impossible to prevent – like a form of PTSD.) But I have gotten to the point in my life where I will *never* answer a direct question with a falsehood. And you’re right – it feels really really good to be free.

    • David Brenner

      Zeke –

      Your comment about years of toxic work environments and the withholding of truth really strikes home – when I worked for a large corporation, the climate of fear was so strong that it was almost paralyzing, but people had been in denial for so long that they had become numb to it – it got to the point where just being there felt like a lie.  It’s really good to see that I’m not alone in having responded this way.  May the truth set you free.

      • morph2020

        Sounds like Exxon-Mobil.

      • lolana

        Ya know it’s funny. I had the same kind of terrible toxic stuff at a place where I worked that was a small fiefdom of a company. There was no accountability for anything and people were treated awfully, I have never been in a place where there was so much fear. People ratted each other out for points or they were forced to do it to save themselves. Then I went to work for a big corporation and the environment has been decent and people are kind to each other. But at the first place, the people there who were so miserable (and it’s hard to be around miserable people!) -were telling themselves, and me, “it’s like this everywhere.” But I’d already worked in so many places, I knew that wasn’t true. I guess my point is that fear paralyzes people gradually over time and these environments can happen anywhere. Next time I come in close contact with a place like that, I know to get out. It will skew your thinking of what’s possible and destroy your faith in your own perceptions. Nothing is worth losing years of your life to that kind of beastly stuff.

  • I’ve been working on being more honest with myself and others for over 3 years now. It’s still scary and I still mess up, or don’t tell the whole truth because I let my fears take over. But I wish I could do it more. It really has it’s benefits too like you outlined above. First I got a lot more respect (especially from myself) and some of my friends thought I was one of the coolest people in the world, while others just became more angry with me until we were no longer friends. I say good riddance. I think the people who can’t handle your honesty are the people who try correct you, judge you, or “mold” you into something you’re not, like they’re better than you or something. They can’t stand you have an independent mind with your own opinions and hopes. I hate those types of douche bags anyway so it works for me. Also, I’ve been getting a lot more action from girls ever since I’ve been totally honest with women I’m attracted to (when I have the balls to do it anyway). It can’t just be me experiencing this, but I think many girls appreciate an honest guy who doesn’t back down from what he says or believes in. I can’t say I’m financially better off since I’ve become honest (not yet anyway), but I’ve surely gotten better quality girls (with better character too) that are more down to hook up ever since. One more thing, when I’m totally honest when it makes me look bad or “crazy” I notice that people trust and respect me a lot more. Thanks for encouraging me to keep it up with this great post!

  • I originally found you through Penelope Trunk’s blog and I’ve also been reading your stuff on business insider. I LOVE this article. LOVE. I am more honest with people now than I was, even just a year ago, and this article made me feel better because I’m definitely losing friends, and family members definitely think I’m crazy. But your article is the truth behind why you do it, you get to a point where you just can’t take all the bullsh-t fake stuff anymore, although I hear you on the “honesty to a point” thing…there’s no reason to hurt people. But I’ve found that being more honest, when people aren’t use to me being so honest, they don’t take it as well as if I’d been honest all along. It’s like a shock to them and they don’t know how to deal. I think it’s kind of funny, only because I know what’s going on (and they don’t). Great article. Thank you

  • Anonymous

    Honesty/openness promotes open competition.
    Commercial entities do not like competition. 

  • David Brenner

    Beautiful post – came here from Google+.  I find the insight – that most people think that only impending death can allow us to be free – to be very moving.  That we embrace our chains to avoid the pain we imagine we will suffer if we open our hearts, when in fact is this imagining that is the major cause of our suffering.  Do you know Brad Blanton’s “Radical Honesty”?  He has a lot to say about risks and rewards – more than anyone else I know.

    I do need some help with the idea of not hurting anyone.  Mostly, we don’t hurt each other – we provide the means that others can use to hurt themselves.  It’s their choice to hurt themselves, but of course it isn’t, because most of us are so habituated to place the responsibility for our responses to what others say and do onto them, that we insist that they hurt us, when of course they don’t have that power – we hurt ourselves with our demons of habitually negative self-judgments and self-doubts.  So if I have a truth that might help someone if they can be brave enough to get past their defenses and see it in the light of day, but I know that their initial resistance will cause them pain if I bring out this truth, how can I be honest, even loving in this tough sense, and yet not “cause them pain”?  I know I can’t take responsibility for others’ choices to cause themselves suffering by resistance to what’s happening – how can I be both kind and honest without being trivial?

    Keep up with the truth, and I’ll try to keep up with you.  Thanks for taking the risk – honesty makes my heart sing, and sometimes takes my breath away.  What could be better?

  • Sussan

    Wow, a stunning, stunning piece. James. Honesty is the foundational of all human virtue. Human virtue is what provides for the betterment of the world. As you say, ”  . . .let’s face it. It’s not pretty. You need to re-brand from birth. . . .” Amen. I am going to reread this, several times, Its that good.

  • David Roberts

    Makes me think of the old saying about kids being cruel. Perhaps a lot of it is them just being honest.  They don’t think about protecting their personal brand.  They have not learned that yet.

    • Brian H

      Nah. They enjoy it. It’s a form of power, which is especially addictive to the young, who don’t have much of it.  

  • John


    I think the over-arching theme of your blog is that the only way to win is to not play the game. 

  • Anonymous

    First question, how did you know about the growth behind my ear?  WTF?

    Oh.. and real quick, I loved this grouping of words “a group ejaculation into the sky” (Now, that there is FUNNY!) I read one years ago “seminal fluid floodgates burst asunder” – You made me think about it.  (I laughed) Man.. I hate reading long posts, but not with writers like you.  (I guess Honest ones)  Unless this is all bullshit? Feel free to use that bursting asunder line, it’s totally YOU.  (and that’s OK my brother) 

    Why did your photos not show up on my page?  Just got that little error pic, but the text reads clear as day, you might want to look into that.

    Hey.. Are you going to kill yourself?  Call me if the answer is yes please.  This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the internet.

    Thanks!  (Honestly, for real… Thanks!)

    Big Daddy out!

    I run an honest question and answer site on photography, where I answer questions for free, One Question at a Time.  

    Come say hi, I like you, you’re a smart cookie.

  • JC

    Can you truly be honest? Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher had some interesting insights on that topic in the late 18th century.

  • great post james

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/Adam Curtis  – “Everywhere on television today people hug and burst into tears. It happens in drama a lot – but it has completely taken over factual programmes too. It usually comes at the end when the characters finally realise that they should express their true feelings. And they do this by crying and hugging everyone in sight.It is part of something much wider in modern society – the belief that one should aim to be “authentic”, and the way to do this, to become authentically yourself, is to learn to get in touch with your inner feelings and express them. If you button yourself up, have a stiff upper lip, and control your emotions then you are both inauthentic and somehow damaged as a human being.”

  • Marc Hansen

    Google honest? Hardly. Their searches move sites that run AdSense ads higher in the results.

  • This is a pretty amazing blog post, even if I don’t agree with everything you say. You fail to make the distinction between total HONESTY and total AUTHENTICITY.Personal branding is a lie, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean the best thing is to always tell the ‘truth’. Instead, focus on living authentically, so you’re ‘branding’ yourself as YOU truly are. That doesn’t have to be 100% inclusive, and it doesn’t have to include any falsehoods.Authenticity is the way to go. For the Buddha, authenticity means “do no harm”, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

  • Anonymous

    “Good morning” is my first lie of the day. What follows is gentle manipulation to make sure my day leans in my favor. I figure my ancestors hid in a bush all day waiting for the perfect opportunity {all other opportunities being risky} to take advantage.
    All things being equal, isn’t taking advantage the goal? This total honesty thing is taking advantage of the more accepted “lie a little” culture. Catching them off balance with a new type of pounce from the bush tactic. Better jump on it quick, the total honesty thing. Humans are quick learners.

    • Fubar

      Human beings evolved to run down prey that had previously evolved to evade pouncers.

      Human beings can out run all fast sprinting prey animals during mid-day over the long run because humans have no fur, and can sweat to stay cool all day long while the furry sprinter eventually overheats and stops running. The reason that humans evolved the ability to run all day and stay cool was that the human brain is very large and needs lots more food energy from animal sources (fats, etc.) than a small, energy-efficient (but not as smart) monkey brain. The larger brain allowed people to remember the locations and times of availability of food/water sources in a complex, ever changing environment during a time of rapidly fluctuating, cyclical climate change.

    • liberranter

      “Good morning” is my first lie of the day.

      Now THAT’S a quote worth remembering!

  • Thanks again for another great post James! I also try to be honest at all times. And I strive to surround myself with honest people.
    I do believe that honesty, beyond talent, success and wealth, is the most important attribute you should maintain in your relationship with others but also in dealing with your own self.
    Being honest gives access to the “real” you and is the first step towards improving your condition as a human being.

  • This post is like breathing in pure oxygen! I especially like that you make the distinction of “honesty to a point.” Some people (crappy people, for sure!) use “honesty” as a cover for hostility, passive-aggressiveness and hurtful behavior. Honesty with tact, kindness and above all, *good intention* is a terrific aspiration!

    •  I agree Deborah. The first rule is “do no harm” but then “tell no lie” is a close second.

    • Gus

      I don’t think you can be honest if you’re hostile. When I was hostile, I was also dishonest and it showed everywhere in my external surroundings. Despite their opulence. Could see it myself just from the company being kept. Since moving from darkness into light and pay back. On my likedin page, fellow war veteran’s son (grown man with grown & growing child) called me the kindest, most honest man he ever knew. It surely caused pause.

    • Andy Madeley

      Hi, I recently read “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick. In it the protagonist often holds back upon offering his opinion and repeats his mantra:

      “I am practicing being kind over being right.”

      I think that is the right way of things too.

  • The brand i recognize here is Gregory House, MD :-)

    •  I had to google that but looks like a good show. Do you recommend?

  • Derek Scruggs

    IMO honesty is a synonym for vulnerability. Vulnerability is incredibly attractive provided that it’s not coming from a place of neediness.

    Kardashian should’ve answered Walters by owning it. “Yes I am, but that worked out okay for Hugh Hefner. I enjoy sex. How am I different from the vast majority of people on the planet?”

  • Asking Jesus into your heart fixes all of this in my experience.

    •  I think any form of surrender, to either a higher power or even an inner creative force, helps with this.

      • mad

        Speak lies to yourself about imaginary beings to compensate for truths in other places.  Great solution.

  • Johnjogurt

    great article james:)) cheers

  • Honesty has cost me everything except my soul.

  • Personal “branding” is just another form of bull sh_t to associate ones self with. I hate it. By the way, this is one of your best posts James. Thank you.

  • I love this post James. This is what I strive for every day. I’m really good at it on my blog. But it’s harder in my interpersonal relationships. But I’m trying. And I’m pushing those boundaries further. 

    •  I know what you mean about the blog. then, its just you and the computer screen. But when another face is involved, and all of the reactions possible, then it becomes much more difficult. But your blog is an honest one and that’s where it starts.

  • jim

    I don’t know if you can  say your “honest” without that brief whiff of self-indulgence. By your criteria I think I must lean significantly in that direction. My birthday was monday and I only received one email, from a friend of 40+ years; nothing from my family; but a package from my in-laws in Poland–nobody in America gave me the time of day (although one friend at the newspaper warehouse where I fold and collect papers for delivery took me out to breakfast this morning). My mother,before she died, told me I should lie more. I probably would but I’m an incompetent liar. I don’t play poker for money because I’m a living/breathing tell. My mother was sure I was crazy and suicidal. My wife says that I absolutely terrify people, which I find rather odd: when I was in school I weighed 140 lbs and was picked on mercilessly; but I’ve put on 130 pounds since then so I suppose size matters. And all my practice in high school  trying to look scary has finally paid off.

     As Scott Adams said: “A deep understanding of reality is exactly the same thing as laziness…. Have you ever seen a statue of the Buddha jogging?”  I concur. And after all, Sloth was a fairly recent addition to the seven deadly sins ( I suspect it was never supposed to be one.) My career is basically a disaster/non- existent. The 450 hours of college credit landed no career and no interest. I have a base income throwing papers, and have a small portfolio of a crap and barter income to fill in the rest. You would think I could do better with two master degrees. But being free of all this crap truly is intoxicating–after you get away from the fear thing. And the biggest fear is that you are going to screw up the great place you find yourself. So maybe being honest isn’t such a bad thing.On occasion people even find me amusing; but I still only have 6 facebook friends–and 3 of these are family.

    • gollikat

      God Jim, if only I had read this 4 years ago when you posted it, I might hope that you see my reply. I love your thinking! I am almost there myself. Janice Joplin said it perfectly, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
      I have a high paying job, cushy and easy. I have a house in the suburbs, grown children, a husband, a nice car. And I am so disillusioned with reality. I want to express my soul in this world. I don’t want a corporate job or an upwardly mobile career anymore. I want to contribute something REAL! I can’t be honest at work anymore because telling the truth might cause problems! WHAT?!

  • James,
    I just want to make two points that have nothing to do with each other.  First: Branding is inherent in building a business.  But dishonesty is not inherent in branding.   When I started my company – I didn’t know what my brand was, but after about 5 years, my customers told me what it was. Maybe that’s why I have an honest brand. I didn’t tell my customer what I was – they told me. 
    Second on lying.  I rarely lie.  But I often keep my mouth shut.  Mainly because I find that my opinion at that moment is often a reflection of myself rather than the other person.  In which case they don’t need to hear it. 

    • I agree with you. If James Altucher wants us to see the devil in the branding, that’s his way to do branding. But branding is not inherently bad! Simply, you can use it to communicate good or bad. In fact, Altucher’s advice is a way of branding. An honest y free brand. Not all the brands have the same personality.

      • Brian H

        Sounds good, but most “branding” is trying to shape what people think of you by arbitrary association with images and slogans.  The very opposite of genuine-ness.  And then trying to exploit it.

        Diet Coke is a good example. Diet drinks of any kind have the reverse effect of what the “branding” says.  The body reacts against “trick sweetness” by increasing other intake and storing calories more aggressively.  Etc. Lies, damned lies, and branding.  

      • Senoralpha

        Coca Cola is the White Devil = Fanta = WWII 

      • aboobakker siddique

        Please check out “Naked Brand” documentary(sponsor: Bloomberg). You might get a better idea.

    • chad

       Patty, I completely agree with you. there have been so many times i wish i hadn’t said something because it really did not reflect the person i am. it was just my opinion at that particular time.
      digital hidden cameras


      I DON’T BELIEVE YOU – you must be paid for to live such comments!
      I offer you to work for FREE for your community and CREATE FREE STUFF TO ALL – your wage will be: FREE FOOD, FREE SPACE, FREE SHELTER, FREE GOLD, FREE LOVE…
      Nobody will buy you any more – you will have nothing to sell!

      • jongage

        Free computers, free grammar lessons, free imagination, free drugs…Wait. Free gold?

    • Jan

      Being recognized in a similar way by different people might be called a brand, but it’s not branding. Branding is an intentional way to shape the perception.

      I would not say, it’s a lie per se. You can honestly try to do things in a way that you think is good and shape perception like that. It still might not “be who you really are,” if you have a tendency to be lazy or messy and you still try to give your customers a great experience. That’s maybe also because you are not one thing, but have many facets.

      And if one person is not one way, a company of dozens or thousands can never be in any one way, it can only try to behave in one way and try to attract people most compatible with that way. It’s a social contract – “while you work for us, we want you to represent what we defined as how our company should be like.”

      But I cannot think of any big company that does advertisement in an honest way. The more effort they put into it, the farther away they try to move perception from reality. And that’s what I would call dishonesty.

    • well said

    • Igor

      And who cares?

    • Bongstar420

      Branding is what you do when the product is not better than the other products

    • joao marques

      honestly i just saw the title, im slepy and i hate long reading that can be sinplyfied, and i also wana watch porn befor sleep, so bye bye.

  • Xenophon

    The Coke TV ad was pulled because of complaints that it promoted miscegenation. Still a touch subject which advertisers would do well to heed.

  • Julio

    Thanks, really refreshing. Reminded me of your article about Bucowski, and also reminded me about Harry Browne´s “How I found freedom…”. I´ll look trhough your site to see if I find something on him.

  • Hob

    That was excellent.  Did I miss the part where you elaborated on the death threat?

    • Hob

      I did.  Pardon me.  Read it again. 
      Great blog.  I’ll be reading much more.

  • mad

    Telling the truth can then be thought of as an asshole filter.

  • Anonymous

    Great article but quite naive.  Do you think the executives of Coca Cola and Goldman Sachs are suffering for their lies?  How about George Soros, David Koch or Barack Obama?

    Buying lies is the great American pastime and EVERYONE participates willingly.  Apple sells people a lifestyle in an ipod repackaged every two years with some new word following “i”.  And people camp out to get them at way-above-value prices. Even James predicts they will be the first trillion dollar company for it.  In the wake of the 1987 stock market crash Tommy Hilfiger made millions selling gaudy $80 shirts, a seemingly absurd proposal.  But if you had one you were somebody, even though we all knew that few people actually had anything.  That was the allure.

    Great article about how things SHOULD be don’t get me wrong.  But its a fantasy to believe that this is how things really ARE or will be in the foreseeable future.  We are all suckers for flattery.  It was proven over 10 years ago that for the last million years CO2 levels have TRAILED global temperature increases by 500-800 years.  This should have completely invalidated and destroyed the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming which rests entirely on the exact opposite assertion.  But since we are told that we were “saving the Earth’, or “good environmental stewards” by buying green products at a premium price, many many people are still going all in.  By the end of today you will hear someone talk about tackling climate change.  And you will still take them seriously because it will be packaged in some “this makes you a good person” message. 

    The implication that we are all so above all this is the biggest lie of all.  James, you’re guilty too.  If this page isn’t self flattery, I don’t know what is.  But don’t take it the wrong way.  Just consider this ME being totally and brutally honest to you as a loyal disciple.

    • Julio

      What´s your blog, Dubid? I´d like to read it.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Julio, thanks for that.

      I don’t actually have a blog.  I hope people have better things to do that listen to me pontificate on how things should be. 

      James has a great perspective on a lot of things.  If you’re looking for a good point of view, stick with him.

    • Brian H

      I’m no Christian by brand, but consider this:
      “How shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?”  

  • Very awesome article. I’m adding this to my short list of advice to my kids… along with 

  • Donotcontactthroughfacebook

    “Did you have sex with that woman?”
    “None of your business!”
    It would have been the truth and would have ended the matter.

  • skoobie

    I love that RollerGirl commercial too, for exactly the same reasons; and if Diet Coke is trying to make it disappear from the web they are doing a piss poor job of it.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but I find that I get fired a lot.

  • just re-read this. you’re a fkn badass. 

  • I never tell lies…..

    • Brian H

      Except for this one.

  • for organizations, this could be known as (often forgotten) good business ethics.

  • Anonymous

    Politics/patriotism/democracy/religion/corporates are no different than Ponzi/Pyramid schemes.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure like many people, I’m always impressed by the honesty of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway annual reports. It hasn’t seemed to slow down his ability to raise capital.

  • Anonymous

    @Police:disqus ….I cаn’t bеleive…..Mу friеnd’s sistеr mаkеs 96/hr on the Lартор. Shе hаs bеen unеmploуеd for 10 months but lаst month hеr incomе was 8253 USD јust wоrking оn thе PC fоr а fеw hоurs. Gо tо this wеb sitе….http://alturl.com/4ou6y

    • Brian H

      Spam.  Delete. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m probably in between #4 and #5 right now myself… and I have the most hilarious brand name and business, obviously…

  • Anonymous

    Your point about honesty to a point…

    So, someone asks you a question, asking for your opinion.  Of course if you answer according to your rules as you laid them out here, your answer would be an honest answer.  That would include “I do not wish to discuss this at this time”?

  • Is that Kim Kardashian’s real ass?
    From the waist down, she is massive!
    I’m kind of shocked – like seeing Snooki from the neck down.

    • Brian H

      Yeah, I’ve seen one or two like that. Mesmerizing!  

  • Mokshalla

    i love your style! and that issue about honesty… i am totally in the same page… my real name?  satyam moksha (liberation through truth).
    i know of the pains from living in the heart, speaking up, being “different”… but still. i am.
    thanks for sharing yourself.

  • thank you for this. it comes at the right time. 

  • Vanessa Gonzalez

    Tell me why I’m so addicted to your articles?

  • Another thing that happens is people use you to fight their battles.
    They want to be polite, calm and sophisticated, while they use you the “Blunt, rude and belligerent” person as a mouthpiece to voice their issues or common issues.

    You see their silly games and wonder whether you appear so stupid that they think you won’t notice. But I guess, they think, since you already have a reputation for being a certain way, they might as well use your shoulders to fire from…

    .but then you do what you would have done anyway- tell the truth because that’s you.

    • DesireeD

      See: Feynman during the Challenger investigation.

  • jav H

    honesty..hurts everybody…what may be the reason…normally ppl speak half truth…but honesty pays u a lot and it must be followed in all circumstances//

  • Just like a hint of lemon fizz and sips of jasmine tea in the morning at industrial slum area. Great, just great. 

  • Altruistic_Proponent

    You need to take a stab at understanding the term “altruism” and why some people think it’s important, dude.

    • I imply from your manner that you might think I don’t think altruism is important. My view on altruism is simple: when you do the daily practice I outcome, and you are honest in every endeavor you apply yourself to, altruism flows naturally and never has to be outwardly considered.

      Funny, though, from your language I find some hostility. “stab”. “dude”. Can you tell me what you think altruism is?

    • Brian H

      Uh-huh. Would you be altruistic if you never got credit for it? 

  • James – come on – you are dating yourself now. That commercial does not do ecstasy justice at all!

  • Mildred Love48

    How do I get an avatar here?

  • Anonymous

    This is by far your best column. Have you checked out Sam Harris ‘Lying’.  Cheap on the Kindle, and worth checking out.

  • Shawnmks

    Wanted to wish you a happy birthday ! Really enjoyed this one James.
     I’m rarely online these days but about once a month I catch up and read most of the stuff you wrote from the previous month I could comment on them all , but I hate to be that guy lol.

    About 10 years ago after having some sort of realization I tried being 100% honest to others (maybe not to myself completely lol) for a while, and your right a lot friends and family stop talking to me, but a lot of people began to trust me more, and ask for important advice knowing that I’m not selling anything or have hidden motives, and I guess more importantly that they will get a honest opinion or answer. Some of the stuff I was asked or told I rather have never known but that’s a whole other story in itself.

    My problem was I said whatever came to mind unfiltered whether it was positive or negative and I hurt a lot of people feelings some who will never talk to me again and some of them have passed on.
    I wish I would have known the story of what Buddha said to his son Rahula , but I found out myself the hard way.
     Very soon after I started to feel extremely bad for the people feelings I hurt being  honest about everything and saying exactly what came to mind  especially those  that were close to me I felt terrable, so I started to do what Budda said and be honest to the point of not hurting anyone(or at least try my best to hurt anyone) and it works much better that way, and your right I have felt a sense of freedom ever since.

  • Anonymous

    I am normally an honest person, almost to a fault. Gifted child, great school/MBA, high-powered job in NYC.for almost a decade. But I’ve always been in the closet about lifelong clinical depression, which by the way has robbed me of so many opportunities and kept me far below what should have been my potential. Now I’ve lost my job (not the NYC one, but, and this is a laugh, I am out due to being overqualified–less expensive folks can do much of what I’m doing.) I was fired from a much earlier job after confiding in (obviously the wrong) colleague about a suicide attempt (I was hospitalized). Do I just need to give up on a bona fide career, even though 80 percent or more of the time I am “high-functioning” enough at least to fake it? Chances of a permanent remission are slim in my case. However, again, I can usually get it together enough to contribute & succeed. Do I tell…anyone in the workplace? Do I even have the right to impose myself on organizations knowing a bad stretch could be damaging not only to me, but to them? I bring this up now because, at 50, it’s getting harder to function as highly as previously, so the issue becomes ever more crucial. So, honesty in this case??

    • I’m not sure why you would offer such personal information to anyone who isn’t in a close relationship with you.  You have been convinced that the “corporation” cares about you, and needs to know everything about you.  Since it has now been proven to you that you are only a number ($$$) to them, perhaps you will get over that.  A company is not a person that you confide in.  Period.  Keep your personal life personal. 
      Being honest does not mean that you indiscriminately tell everyone your “issues”.

  • Diana Owen

    just like we can never truly “touch” something (as far as particles and matter are concerned), we can never be free– but we can embody freedom… we can represent freedom… we can describe how it filters through our senses – i like this article- thanks for writing it

  • David

    branding…. where is the branding, where is the singeing burning flesh… it’s in the brains of the people who are watching the commercials. . . .  and who gets branded. . . . the cattle, the heard, the prodded beasts.  It smells bad

  • 8. You will discover things about yourself that you can’t reconcile with the person you believe yourself to be.

  • Picassonude

    This does not sound like honesty to me. It sounds like obsessing on pain and failure. You’ll experience more happiness and freedom by focusing on those brief moments of success you mentioned and trying to expand them.

  • jojo

    The more I think about it.. the more I think we’re just kidding ourselves about our own branding.  Lying to ourselves if you will…. aka optimism. Which isn’t a bad thing. 

    Brands typically are all totally fucking lies. 80% of them when you think about it.  Nike? shit shoes..sweatshop quality.  New Balance are great quality.. but they aren’t selling their brand.  Gap? sweatshop quality..fades and stretches. Coke/Pepsi? above. TV shows? Woah… don’t even get me started…   

    The most honest brands are the ones that don’t sell the brand. They just keep their loyal following going.  Like Betsy Johnson or Toms Shoes. 

    If you have something you think is good to deliver…. who cares How you actually get people to buy it – (brand it).  Don’t kid yourselves about integrity in brand and lie to yourself about your branding imagery.  It’s all just a show and your the wizard of oz.  

  • Excellent website. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your effort!

  • Kavin Yudhitia

    I wonder, could you get those 7 things with without honesty? My simple intuition said that it could.

  • Dapo

    God, this is a BRILLIANT article, blew my mind in like 4 different directions

  • Have you seen this Coke ad – you think the Coke Zero Roller Girl ad implies that Coke loves Ecstasy?  

  • I like one quote from the social network “as if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared”. 

    honesty is good but not every thought :)

  • From Silence to Honesty

    Interestingly I came across a saying of the Prophet of Islam which generally said that if what you are about to say does not outweigh you keeping silent (in terms of benefit), then keep silent.

    I think silence, by virtue, can foster honesty. 

  • i lie all the time by telling the truth. seriously, honesty is the slayer of confusion and that makes it lethal since most people are in a state of confusion. I would have to say that after my experience through deep pain and a catastrophic event my honesty has helped me regain my self-esteem/confidence and all that good stuff which makes life awesome.

    on the subject of branding, marketing companies who know how to deliver an expression of honesty aligned with the product’s features/benefits allows the campaign to be successful! 

  • Maybe the best thing is to be honest and genuine and interested in the things you love, then naturally and modestly share that snapshot of yourself with others.   Grandpas dont need to brand themselves to their grandkids.  

    Thanks for your writing this blog.
    # 7 is very, very, very true!
    I love it when you talk about pushing the boundaries, and state that money, a house, or a fancy car or degree are not necessary.
    Thanks again.

  • Bill Purdy

    You’re an incredible writer, James. Keep on weaving our dreams for us.

  • despondent1

    I want to know about the death threat!

  • This is fantastic. Thank you.

  • I find honesty to be its own reward.  Sure, my friends were uncomfortable when I called things by their proper names…like when I used to be fat and said that I was fat.  They would say, “You’re not fat, you’re just pleasingly plump.”  Nope.  I was fat.  I am not fat now, but I was.  In the long and short run, honesty is much easier than dissembling. 

    There are some caveats as you pointed out.  It is not appropriate to shove honesty down people’s throats.  Honesty and cruelty ARE not synonymous or even related.  Before launching into honesty, one needs to be sure that what is being put forth is HONEST and not merely an opinion.  Honest people are honest with themselves FIRST and then with everybody else second.

  • Good one

  • awesome post 

  • awesome 

  • Jim Crawford

    Radical Honesty certainly has a place in my heart.

  • Brilliant!  Freedom does come from Honesty.   My only prob is the “Hurting people” side of honesty.   My sense of humor and directness and general lack of discretion often hurts or turns off people.

  • Awesome post.

  • Bennyzr


    Good article. How do you define honesty? Isn’t honesty subjective to your understanding of things which may not match somebody else’s uderstanding of things. A great Wilde quote: “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.”


  • 1slingshot

    Sounds like you are truly free enough to say whatever is on your mind without fear and that is truly liberating!  I haven’t made it there yet; I have all these “built-in stops”, my psychologist friend calls them, and they wisper in my head all kinds of things that keep me from saying what I really think so I only get those things out when chatting to really close friends or in emails labeled, “thinking out loud”!

  • great post, i really enjoyed reading. thanks.

  • this is awesome

  • Dshiang

    What about an authentic brand? You are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. 

  • I can relate to this a lot. I run a youtube channel where I have about 1,500 subscribers and several of my videos have hit 10,000+ views. I am not the most popular person on youtube and I’ve only been doing this for a year (with a 5 month hiatus, I hit that subscriber count before the hiatus and it has stayed there since I returned a week ago). 

    Anyway, a lot of people (“fans”) came to me because I was honest. I didn’t lie. I interacted with my subscribers and replied to comments most other youtubers ignored. I publicly admit when I was wrong. And most importantly, I was actually talking about something interesting that people cared about (technology). I have however gotten in trouble for this very honesty in the past. I will never lie in response to a direct question even when I am giving information that is controversial. The result has been a lot of people being angry with me for my opinion, while others respected me for saying something a lot of people out there did not want to say.

    I also ran a side blog for awhile where I would bring up issues and points of view based on my experiences and the experiences of people I’ve known. Someone realized a post mentioned their situation and they were angry with me for talking about it online (despite keeping them completely anonymous).

    I lied a lot in high school, to fit in. As I grew older I started being more honest and I can straight up tell you that honesty will lose you friends. Many people do not value honesty, they value hearing what they want to hear. I’ve grown more tactful and learned to keep my mouth shut, but even still, being tactful only gets you so far. I was passed up for a promotion at my old job because I said a lot of true things most people keep to themselves. I was asked how they knew I could handle the huge increase in job responsibilities I would get from the promotion. I responded by pointing out that a person doing good/bad at a low level position does not show how they’d do higher up because most of the people working those jobs only do the required work and will do more only if it’s needed. I always worked really hard, but if I wasn’t going to gain anything from the extra work, there was no reason to exhaust myself. The promotion would put me in a position where I would be rewarded for effort. I watched the very cautious, disapproving look on the interviewers face and instantly knew I’d said the wrong thing and wouldn’t be getting the promotion.

    All I had done was point out a simple truth: you can’t pay someone minimum wage and expect them to work hard forever. I worked my butt off for six months without any recognition and I was exhausting myself. I was working harder than anyone else in the office, including my direct superior, and I wasn’t getting anything to show for it except for “employee of the month”. I had been taught by my own boss and by the co-workers I had that you don’t really need to put in your full effort because nobody cares either way as long as the work is getting done. At the time I was naive–a teenager–and I did not realize that those are not things you should mention in an interview. 

    Honesty can get a lot of strangers to love you, but it is a huge challenge when unregulated with people you love.

  • Scott Solomon

    This is genius

  • Scott Solomon

    This is so beyond genius.  How the hell did you think of this?  LOL

  • GoNuclear

    I watched the “Coke Zero” commercial. It’s not “Coke Zero,” but Diet Coke. And they are not roller blading — those are regular, old-fashioned roller skates. These are just details, but you should have noticed. I, for one, didn’t see any connection with ecstasy or LSD or any other drug use, and the song playing didn’t mention it as far as I could tell. So it seems to me that arriving at the conclusion that Coca Cola Co. loves ecstasy is a stretch.

  • GoNuclear

    The desire to tell the truth is easy. Knowing the truth is the hard part.

  • Andrew Joseph

    Hi… I think you are a brilliant, observant writer and I can only hope I take my own blog and my own writing to your level of competence and entertainment. Cheers


    I do believe that A GIFT ECONOMY would help people to be honest – IMAGINE you can get FREE FOOD, FREE SHELTER, FREE MOVE… thus, you could WORK OUT OF PASSION for free and not out of need for money, status, prestige…
    -PLANT FREE WIKI-TREES, WIKI-VEGIS… help turn our cities into FREE gardens where all 7 billion people can eat for free – FREE FOOD = FIRST STEP TOWARD FREEDOM, SOVEREIGNTY, HONESTY – google: GUERRILLA PLANTING !
    -SHARE & GIFT as much as you can
    -CREATE & USE FREE STUFF at all levels: linux/ ubuntu / opensuse / openoffice… instead their profit creating corporations
    -DESTROY THEIR PROFIT BASED SYSTEM through FREE STUFF = the only weapon against all their manipualtions, slavery, misery

  • fouramoracle

    shameless promotion. this inspired me to be honest. here is where I am being honest:

  • Gus

    Very accurate.

  • Guruprasad V

    Hey James,
    You are my inspiration for http://coolmistakes.blogspot.com . This is my blog in which I post only my mistakes. Thanks for that.

  • theolg

    Tell us about deals that you missed because of your honesty. I am sure there are some interesting stories there…

  • andyglasser

    Many years ago, when blogs were new, I started one on xanga using a Pseudonymn (I don’t know how to spell that) with the intention that I could be totally honest. I wasn’t. And then I started posting stories I had written and wanted credit for them, so I “came out.” with my real name. Then one day my wife got mad at me for posting a pornagraphic poem she didn’t want her mother to see and for awhile I felt stifled from writing at all. Many times I flirted with the idea of another anonymous blog, but the good user names weren’t available anymore, and I loved the old one. Now I post completely honest things on there again, but every post is private. Sometimes I just say outlandish things to see if they feel true. They are. No they’re not. Yes they are.
    I started writing journals that I would not save and I found it liberating. But before I found it liberating, I found it depressing. I fought my cognophopia (fear of my own thoughts) and In two weeks time I went from admitting to myself that I will never be happy unless I leave my wife to thinking that my relationship with her is the best it’s ever been. During that time I wrote a letter to a girl I once knew, we hadn’t even dated, apologizing for not marrying her and giving her children (ok, I didn’t really say that, at least not in the final version). I wished that I had, and was so depressed that I wanted to give my kids back for another chance. By admitting to myself that I consider many of my decisions or non decisions to have been mistakes, including getting married, I came to see that the reason I keep making these mistakes is that I have been a complete coward (e.g. not honest – with myself or anyone else), I realized then that my life is my own fault and that I would be having the same problems no matter what course I took, and actually ended up not just lucky, but with exactly what I needed (a wife who has forced me over the last 20 years to learn how to assert myself). If I assert myself then the worst that could happen is my wife would leave me, and the best is that no one would be able to stop me from being who I want to be. And when I started to do that, and she didn’t stop me, and I realize she never had, then suddenly I loved her again (or maybe for the first time). Wow.
    Your list of what will happen if you are completely honest is exactly what I’ve always been afraid of. I am being honest with myself now, at least, and little by little with my wife and after that it should be my children (won’t they love that), and after that, it will be a piece of cake.

  • Bernyoz

    I am going to try this out……and I am a sales rep. Wish me luck

  • JoeR

    I hear exactly what you are saying, James. This concept of “Branding Yourself”, as if integrity and doing good work were something new is all a bit silly. And if you work in branding, you see all the winks and nods. Years ago there was no personal branding. You did work, you did it well, you did your work with integrity- that is what you are supposed to do. You built relationships with your clients- people. They knew who you were and you knew who they were.

    I’ve read quite a few books at this point about personal branding and mostly what I’ve read are things that anyone in business should have a rudimentary knowledge of. Do we really need to be told to behave with integrity or how and when to return calls. Do you really want to stand out from the crowd with gimmicks? There’s an idea here but I’m not really sure I am seeing it. I think people are confusing building a personal brand with building a personal reputation. Kim Kardashian would have been better off just owning up to the ridiculousness of her sex tape fame and plowing forward with “but this is who I am now”.

    I’ve worked in the “branding” industry for a long time and I’ve seen people trying to work a personal brand and spin their weaknesses and lack of character into strengths. Worse, I’ve seen folks who had about as much integrity and brains as a block of wood (apologies to the wood) pontificate about personal branding while colleagues snickered under their breath. No one that I have ever met who had the goods ever branded themselves. Their integrity and track record stood for itself and preceded them. I think that this concept of personal branding is with a few exceptions, just another self-help/motivational cottage industry.

    I think we drop this personal branding bullshit and do what we are supposed to do, be who we are by doing what we do to the best of our ability, honestly and authentically. Be yourself. Do what you do awesomely. Position yourself correctly in the right market. That’s it. You’ve got it. If people don’t know what you do, then it isn’t because you don’t have personal brand, it’s because you are confused and you are confusing the market. So sort it out and get back to work. No one ever says, “he has a good brand, hire him”. You can’t put a sticker on yourself that says “new and improved” or “new look, same great taste”. Integrity is communicated by simply living it.

    Sorry, I know there are quite a few people invested in this personal branding thing, but in spite of all the technology, at the end of the day we do business with people, not with a personal brands.

    On another note, you know, I don’t ever remember a situation in business where I didn’t speak up to right a wrong that I feel good about now. I’m not talking about where silence would have been more compassionate. I’m talking about where you don’t speak up out of fear. You let it go, don’t want to get involved, you don’t want to get on the wrong side and you have all sorts of rationales for not doing it. I carry those things like little stones in my heart. Some things will always be wrong no matter how you rationalize it.

  • Inspiring post James!

  • Mike

    Thanks for this post Mr. Altucher. I feel that honesty has left me unemployed! But i’m optimistic because it has only been 3 mo. since I’ve been out of work, and I feel that by being honest I can be optimistic that I will ultimately end up in a spot where I will want to be and other people will want me to be there (wherever there is!)

    • ambar

      Good luck! Honesty got me fired too, and I’ve been unemployed for 2.5 years. What I’ve learned? At work you can’t be honest and do your job well, you only have to laugh at you boss jokes and cover for his/hers lack of skills.

  • chimgee from mongolia

    Here is what i want to do on this comment, so that i will feel liberating. Honestly from my heart, I am telling to the world the real truth about myself. i am just bullshit, loser, not incredible, not great, not even mediocre. I used to lie, steal, have sex with my male colleagues and ended up having pregnant. I used to be so bad, just in my terms. I bet there is worse out there. but in my case i am so shit. But I so love myself, respect myself now. Still right now, i am not loving myself because of this stupid job, sitting in front of computer, doing translation. it sucks, actually it doesn’t suck. instead i suck cuz i become so impatient that i don’t do the translation. Not because i can’t or not able to. I know that I can really do this translation easily. it just takes so much time. so i get impatient. my sleep sucks. i want this job done, but this sleep is stopping me to do it. even without my sane thinking, i can do this stupid translation. it is easy.

    Here is another real reason or truth that hinders me from doing my work. You know big private companies are full of fake people. can’t speak truth, or can’t be yourself. even in asia, we can’t be ourselves. we have to pretend, to fit in to survive. I am like that and i am tired of it. Now i want to be totally myself, but i am just not that experienced at it right now. So I searched internet looking for ways to be myself. and ended up here reading some articles. Great website. it helped me to be myself. I spent many hours of work just reading from internet instead of working. and i am getting paid too. yeah, but at the same time, i feel kind of ashamed, dishonest to people at work. they are thinking that i am working. Nope. not at all. But I am so much better now. I feel alive, relieved, calm after i had realization from readings from this site. Done. Being mediocre, being a loser, being honest, procrastinating has a reason, give up to be the greatest, no pretending. I love these key words,

  • Alex W

    I read Brad Blanton’s Radical Honesty. I think you might like it.

  • tymothymichel

    The part of honesty that I enjoy is that, to be completely honest, you have to not give a damn about the other person’s opinion or if they are offended by yours. You say what you mean and mean what you say and let the chips fall where they may. But to be fair, have a thick skin because you will get some blow back. But that’s okay because the other dumb s.o.b. deserves his day on the soap box too, even if you don’t agree with him/her…and you can give them some blow back over it…and everyone feels better and goes home and has a drink and a nice dinner…and that’s about all you can hope for these days anyway.

  • shawn

    Great article, thank you for posting! People get upset with me for what I think is “being honest,” and it’s good to know some people see that as a good thing. haha

  • That’s very insightful.

  • Andycan

    “. Every day, just push out those boundaries a little further.

    We reach for that freedom. We never truly get there.”
    amen the happiness is in the journey to freedom

  • Maurice Thrower

    Yeah, pushing those boundaries is uncomfortable but to be able to stand apart from the crowd is worth it!

  • ben

    I like this. If honesty is as compelling as this implies, which I agree it is – honesty, authenticity, whether in product or service or way of life – would people agree honesty, to draw a commercial analogy, is a growth ‘business’?! Will it increasingly inform all the most successful products? Or maybe it already does?

  • Ryan Saplan

    what an awesome read. best blog post I’ve truly lol’d in a while. thanks.

  • monika

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. It’s so refreshing and I really appreciate it.

  • MorganFleurDeLys

    How To Win Friends & Influence People…

  • Ajani

    The best brand is ‘Honesty’…the psyche naturally gravitate to Honesty

  • Suzy

    Your personal brand is not solely based on your successes and failures, which we all have, it is based on your character which is what ultimately influences people.

  • The bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lie.

    -Men in Black 3

  • joel

    Re Coke: ♫ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8Z5GEj-InY As they say …enjoy!

  • When I started being honest I experienced all of the above except the suicide notes, but that’s probably because I don’t make my thoughts as public.
    Also, would you say it is best to start being honest cold turkey?

  • vin

    Isnt the challenge that most of what we think of as being an honest representation of ourselves or reality is really a manifestation of our dysfunction? I might believe that your actions reveal your dislike of me when in reality my interpertation of your action is based on my own self loathing. if i proceed under the code of being honest, but instead im dilusional, my network of people is going to shrink very quickly. So where is the line? should we be honest about the fact that our honest opinion could be our own dysfunction fooling us into believing the truth? if you think your network shrunk before, wait until your honest about strange voices telling you stories about what others think. if you need to pay your bills, lie as often as you can. people really dont want your truth…until you become an eccentric blogger who has a huge following…or your sean penn.

  • Alisha Fox

    Continue the good work; keep posting more n more n more. http://www.hockleyandodonnell.com/car-insurance-quotes-pa.asp

  • Sometimes I had a hard time telling people why I couldn’t or didn’t want to do certain things. Happened to me at work in the last few months. I was assigned on a project I hated doing the things I hated. Despite hinting a lot why I might not be a good fit, still I kept on. Finally last week, I apologized (it’s not easy for me to apologize flat out to people) to my PM that I wouldn’t want to do this anymore, and that I had wasted a lot of her time, etc. She was pretty cool about it. I think she even liked it. She said “I appreciate your honesty.” I felt really relieved.

  • David DeJesus

    I think I stumbled on to one of the greatest minds of this century. Today is a good day.

  • Ben

    I don’t think that your friend has been covered in concrete.

    For one, it’s a strong alkali that would burn his skin.
    Secondly, begins to set it generates a lot of heat, that would burn his skin.
    Maybe he isn’t so honest.

  • sarahcpr

    Awesome article.

  • Ettie

    Yeah honesty is a funny thing indeed. Everybody wants it, but nobody wants to hear it. Go to a job interview and say this: “I’m just here because I need the money”. Think you’ll get hired? Not a chance. Well, one employer in a thousand might find your answer funny and different enough to give you a chance. It’s strange though, at some point in time needing a paycheck stopped being a legitimate reason for applying for a job. Branding is invading our lives, and it’S hitting closer to home than ever before.

    bring the fresh

  • A Quantum Computer

    Periods and commas go inside the quotations marks.

  • This one reminds me of someone I’m in love with for being honest . . .


    Then finally, people will come back to you. Because you’re entertaining – if 20000 people are lying and only 1 person is telling the truth then that 1 person is going to stand taller than anyone. At first people will come back to you for voyeuristic reasons. Why? Because they know if they watch Real Housewives they aren’t watching anything “Real” and they aren’t watching “Housewives”. But you’re real. So they want to know what you’ll do next.

    Her name is Nicole Knepper and she is the author of the book “Moms Who Drink and Swear”.

    She is both entertaining and just blunt as hell. That’s my kind of woman. I love watching what unfolds in her mind and spills out. :)

  • Adda

    I’m at step #4 and I have been waiting for #5 to start happening. Currently still waiting.

    Great posts, by the way.

  • wow loving this blog…………”Honesty is about the scars. it’s about the blemishes. But it’s more than just bragging about failure, which could be a form of ego. It’s about truly helping people”. Amen, now for me to remember that as I move forward each day

  • joemichaels

    Please clarify. On your page, “100 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur,” you say, “Branding is everything.” Why the anti-brand message here?

  • Shawn Lowell

    James, when you say “honesty to a point”, I understand it as “telling the truth, but not all the truth”. I this also what you mean?

  • Lauren:)

    A few words on truth: some people decide to seek out the truth, and they will always find it. A guy named Holyoak said that to me, and it resonated. Because……it’s true.
    Truth resonates. It has a gravitational force. It has density, and something that is a lie is…….hollow…. So they make a different SOUND when someone speaks in honesty and someone speaks in deceit.
    Point arriving: Truth is what one finds through deciding to live from a place of honesty. Telling the truth puts you upon that awesome path to awesomeness.
    People will react in unusual ways when confronted with truth, because it can be painful to observe it brought into the light. They may fight, because it stings them. But after honing this lifestyle choice into a useful tool from much use, it evolves into something that will always seek to HELP, and when you are good enough at being an advocate for what is true but unspoken until you came along, you see the changes that take place as a direct result of you having the skill to wield the truth like a musician wielding an instrument that is more part of him than it is not.
    Truth can hurt, but it can heal. It helps people who need to be made aware of how to grow when they are stuck in stagnation, at risk of decaying like a limb that lost circulation.
    And that is my addendum to your article. I was honest. You may call me crazy, but I don’t really mind. :)

  • Kay

    Thanks. I needed this :)

  • Rod Arters

    James, I’m a new fan of yours – love your blog. Thanks for writing! This post reminded me of one I wrote last year.. called the “Facebook Fraud.” Keep up the good work! http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/the-facebook-fraud/

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  • Kayode of Nigeria

    Lovely piece

  • Marco

    I think this post is a great example of Depressive Realism.

  • cblog

    All those seven things happened to me

  • LMM

    I am currently dealing with what I think may be a chronic liar. Almost everything that comes out of this person’s mouth is a lie: mafia connections, an IQ of 160, Turkish prisons. The list goes on and on. I wish it were true, but some of it seems so far fetched. I can’t stand it anymore, but not because of the fact it’s completely ridiculous, but because of the fact every time I listen to him I am PART of the lie. If I don’t call him on it I am condoning it. But once I do call him on it, he comes up with more lies, then I start doubting myself. But I guess this is the nature of the beast. Either way, it brings out the liar in me. I want to live an honest life. If I don’t, I will succumb to even more failure and less success. Not to mention if I have any more to do with this person I’ll be risking my own future.

  • Truth in marketing is a polarizing thing. And that is always good. I was once told that you have to not care about anyone else than your bulls-eye market and that if you get customers that don’t fit that description, it’s a bonus as they will find what they want in your marketing message. It’s all about the USP.
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  • Ann

    I only want to say thank you so much! This is brilliant and honest and I appreciate your work James.

  • Effrosini Karanikolas

    As the saying goes ” truth will set you free ” it didn’t say it was going to be easy, but any lie, anything that is done in darkness comes to light – so when you lie you may be getting away with quick, short little victories ( if you want to call them that) but in the long run as someone stated in a previous post in will catch up and weigh you down. When you make the decision to come clean with the lie and set the truth straight with yourself, no doubt family, friends, colleagues etc will stop talking to you or avoid you or whatever the case may be but that’s only because the truth wasn’t set in the first place. I really dig you Mr Altucher your blogs ring loud and clear many truths.

  • I’m struck by your reference to ‘personal honesty’ & ‘historical is hysterical for some’. It would be great to hear your thoughts on how to prepare for points 1 and 2. I’ve found that type of rejection and or absence of words speaking so loudly it’s at times the hardest aspect to bear. Incredibly valuable piece, Thank you.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the inspiration, I am gathering steam for a novel in gestation some years! Steve

  • James. I love you.

    I just read your book, and the honesty was so goddamn refreshing I could scream. I seriously want to run screaming into my stupid dorms with all the insecure freshman and yell “Wake up you sheep!”

    But anyway, I want to thank you. I used to be pretty honest with my blog posts before I decided to try my hand at professionally blogging (the ebook, the affiliate links, the whole thing). Now I think I’m going to go back to being honest again. I’ve spent most of my life being fake, and I don’t want to spend the rest of it being fake too.

    Thank you.

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  • Newborn

    Thank you for your post. I have come to accept the fundamental truth you speak of – truth shall set you free – and have surrendered to this premise. I feel like a child taking his first few steps– wobbly, yet thrilled at the exhilaration walking on a wire without a safety harness brings. It’s helpful to know what to expect from those closest to me as I begin this journey of self discovery and exploration. I’ll use the post as guideposts and will illuminate the path for others who follow with experience. As you say, “It’s about truly helping people.”

  • Igor

    Thank you James.

  • Emma

    I am always honest (to the point of not hurting someone) and I had a lovely compliment from a very close friend that if I gave advice she trusts it is correct as I don’t make stuff up and give my honest opinion on why I think I am right

  • Stephen Bentley

    Interesting piece but just what is honesty? Often honesty is comprised of one person’s opinion! Not always but often! If a person or a corporation is privy to the real facts (the truth) and wraps it up in camouflage or fails to reveal the truth, then that is dishonesty not opinion. But that is just my honest opinion ……

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  • gollikat

    F.E.A.R. = False Events Appearing Real

    Fear is nothing more or less than 1) thinking we might not get what we think we want, or 2) thinking we might lose what we think we have

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  • Dina Schlie Preuss

    I think you may have missed the point of “personal” branding… It isn’t (as you say) lying about who you are, or who you have been. True personal branding is understanding what makes you tick; what the core essence of who you are is and then taking that as your “message to the world.”

    That message to the world is “your personal brand.” My message is all about “justice;” and so to brand myself, I must find a way to bring the message of Justice out into the world.

  • Daniel Corcega

    Thank you!

  • Fred Munoz

    “do no harm” Does this mean we should be honest, but not to a point that ends someone in prison? I should not volunteer the truth and report illegal, or unethical behavior? A prison sentence is harmful to most.

  • Tammy

    Excellent writing. People don’t struggle with honesty. They struggle with being brave enough to be authentic and ethical about the truth. Look at hyenas. Very sensitive creatures. Look where their interpretations of the truth leads them. But that is the nature of the beast. Are we beasts or do we become them by default? People will gather copious amounts of influences to create their “brand” and spend the rest of their lives pouring energy into personifying all that they are trying to convince people that they are because they have been told they can be anything they want to be and they truly believe they are what they have chosen to be. While hiding their demons. Or letting them get the best of them. Instead, they should settle in and get to know themselves. The good and the bad. Because this creation of identity creates a lot of destruction, serving the ego. The desperation when they stray from their brand. The panic the ego can create when somebody sees what they’re trying to hide. The lengths of persecution people are willing to go to to cancel out anybody that might object, or threaten, or say otherwise to throw off the image they’re working so hard to create. I’ve seen it all. Justice isn’t being angry about it or reciprocating it back. It’s just walking away and finding a peace that doesn’t compromise. People do what they want to do. Including inventing themselves instead of knowing themselves and hurting others that threaten their certainty. So, yes, it begins with honesty and courage. Good doses. Because the truth is the truth. Not what you try to make it out to be.

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  • RegalDelRio

    this is me in a nutshell

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  • I agree with this. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been a “bare-bones” honest person. It has cost me more in this material world than it has given me though. But I’m not focused intently on the present – almost entirely on the future.

  • Hammam Alabdulla

    I’m Obsessed I’m reading every article of yours! <3_<3