04/29/2013 01:26 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2013

How to Stop Lying


I lied to him to get a job. The hedge fund manager asked me how much money I had in the bank. I had ZERO but I said, "a million dollars". This was in 2002. In the prior two years I had lost all the money I ever made and my home. Now I was broke.

He said, "how can you afford to live on that?" Which strikes me as ludicrous now but I felt every blood cell in me turn upside down in shame then. I felt he would think it was courageous if I threw the question back at him. "Well, how much money do you have?"

He said, "one hundred million dollars." Who knows? One friend of mine told me something, "you can never tell how much money someone has until they file for bankruptcy."

I read a statistic that people lie (including "white lies"), on average, 10-200 times a day. I also read that people say, on average, 2500 words a day. So one technique to stop lying is to stop talking. I try not to talk. I try to say around 1000 words a day.

The hedge fund manager and I then went out to dinner with his wife. He was cheating on his wife but I didn't know that yet. I had read all his favorite books so I was able to quote from them. "What are your favorite books?" he said. I quoted from those books (Ayn Rand). Then I quoted from a research paper he wrote in 1969 that I had found buried in some journal.

He asked me, "What are my interests outside of finance?" I knew he liked baseball so I talked about various histories of baseball I had just read. Baseball is boring.

The hedge fund manager gave me money to manage. It was my first "job" in the financial space. In a very short time I more than doubled the money he had given me. A year or so later I wrote a book about how I did it. He instantly fired me. He thought I had revealed too much. He wrote, "our financial relationship is now over." I wrote, "it's not. You owe me money because I have made you so much." So he instantly sent a check.

One day, I had to return my dad's car to the dealership. My dad had a stroke and was in a coma and would never drive a car again. After I dropped it off the hedge fund manager called me and invited me to dinner.

I went to the dinner and started drinking quite a bit. I was feeling depressed. To my right was the mistress. And in front of me was the hedge fund manager's daughter. I was shy and had a crush on the daughter and so I blurted out the only question I could think of, "so what do you think of [manager] and [mistress] being so out in the open?"

[Daughter] looked at [mistress] and said, "I think she is a money hungry slut." And then she got up and walked out of the restaurant.

I was horrified and embarrassed. [The wife] even wrote me the next day and was upset at me and [manager] was upset at me until finally I said to everyone, "this is your family issue. I have my own family issues." Anyway, my book came out right after that and I was fired.

All of this is to say, better to speak fewer words. Less lies, more time to listen and learn and think and daydream. Less embarrassing situations. Less masks to wear. My mental closet can only fit so many masks. The older I get, the less masks fit in that closet.

More benefits of not opening your mouth: flies don't get in your mouth. Less food gets in your mouth so you eat better. You give less advice. Nobody listens to my advice anyway. People do what they want until they are injured like a kid putting his fingers on the stove. Telling the truth is easier. It means you just have to remember things.

Telling a lie means you have to remember, AND THEN keep track of the lie. Too much stress! (Polygraph machines, in fact, work by measuring stress levels). Less "mouth" means you start to use your eyes and ears more. Like the way blind people can hear and touch better.

Blind people seem to develop super powers with their other senses. People who talk less are like superheroes in the same way. If you become a superhero and see me lying homeless in the gutter, please save me.

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