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16 Cheating and Honesty – Looking Within, with the help of the world’s great novelists 4.17.08 – could use one final review You must judge from within There are a set of religious, or rather moral, writers who teach that virtue is the certain road to happiness, and vice to misery, in this world. A very wholesome and comfortable doctrine, and to which we have but one objection: namely, that it is not true. 998 -Henry Fielding (1707-1754) British Playwright and Novelist It is true that sports and cheating go hand in hand. That's because cheating is more common in the face of bright-line incentive (the line between winning and losing, for instance) than with murky incentives. Olympic swimmers and weightlifters, cyclists in the Tour de France, football lineman and baseball sluggers: they have all been shown to swallow whatever pill or powder may give them an edge. It is not only the participants who cheat. Cagey baseball managers try to steal an opponents signs. In the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating competition, a French judge and a Russian judge were caught trying to swap votes to make sure their skaters medaled. Steven Levitt 1499 American Economist, born 1967, author of Freakonomics If you want to win, cheat. That seems to be the modern mantra, both in sports and often in business. Doping seems to be universally practiced in sports, from sluggers like Barry Bonds, to cyclists such as Floyd Landis, to track and field stars like Marion Jones, and a host of other lesser known leaders in a wide variety of sports. Sometimes they’re caught, very often they are not. Did superstar pitcher Rodger Clemens use steroids? Despite an absurd congressional investigation, and sworn oaths, the public may never know. How about seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong? Plenty of accusations, no proof. And cheating is certainly not limited to drugs; Bill Belichick, New England Patriots Coach, and winner of 3 Super Bowls thus far, was fined heavily for stealing signals from opposing teams. NBA referee Tim Donaghy was fired after it had been learned that he had bet on games he was officiating. Stories of illegal recruitment of college athletes in basketball and football are almost a daily occurrence. It would be nice to think that cheaters are eventually found out, both in sport and in business, but this simply isn’t true. The reality of life is that evil often prospers, at least in public. As detailed elsewhere in this book, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates built his vast fortune on an operating system that he did not create and obtained in a dubious transaction, yet he will in no way be held accountable except perhaps by history. There is a huge amount of evidence that Barry Bonds set the home run record while using steroids, but he still has the record, and has been paid many millions of dollars while achieving it. Bobby Knight is one of the most notorious coaches in all of college sports, and was fired for his unethical behavior while at Indiana University, but was still hired by another school, and was able to pass that job along to his son when he decided to join ESPN as a commentator. He even got paid advertisements that made fun of his temper. The idea of shame, or disgrace, is unknown in both modern sports and business. Bobby Knight was a winner on the court, and only failure is really punished. Yet, while professional sport provides almost endless examples of cheating, amateur athletics provides a different perspective. If your goal was to run a six minute mile, would you run ¾ of a mile in six minutes and tell yourself you had succeeded? Would you shoot a round of 80 on the golf course and tell yourself you had shot 70? Would you bench press 180 and tell yourself it was 200 pounds? Of course not – you realize you are competing principally against yourself. Of course, some people do lie to themselves, about sporting achievement, about business, and about everything else. It is this sort of internal dishonesty that is the beginning of the end, and many of the world’s great novelists have focused on the contradiction between internal dishonesty and public stardom. As the Russian novelist Dostoevsky said: “A man who lies to himself and believes his own lies becomes unable to recognize the truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself as well as for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and in order to divert himself, having no love in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal, in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying - lying to others and to yourself. (889) Behaving like an animal, and indulging in the lowest forms of vice is a pretty good description of the kinds of behavior we see from many leading sports figures; beating wives and girlfriends, fights and shooting incidents, rape, and drug dealing are some common examples. The kind of gross materialism and coarse sensuality we see from some business figures is, as with athletes, an indication of the lack of self respect which Dostoevsky describes. Internal honesty, which leads to external honesty, is at the core of making business like sport, in the best sense of sport. And this honesty is based on a sort of courage, the courage to face reality, or not be to be afraid of the opinions of others. The people who cheat are the people who are most determined to impress others, and most afraid of the low opinion of others. Ultimately, they live for others, rather than themselves, as has been so eloquently shown in the work of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, quoted elsewhere in this book. But it doesn’t take a great novelist to make this point; the popular American actor Jack Nicholson captured the point nicely when he said: “There’s nothing in lying as far as I’m concerned. It’s always a manifestation of being afraid of something.” In the ultimate game, how matters as much as how much – in fact, more. If you succeed by misleading customers, or employees, investors – in fact, anyone, you haven’t succeeded – you’ve cheated. Of course, the game is much harder if you play by the rules – but since you make the rules you should understand why the rules are important. And since, ultimately, you’re playing against yourself, you have no one to fool. If you’re looking to impress the world, cheating might pay. If you’re looking to impress yourself, it doesn’t. There is a wonderful scene in the epic novel, The Way We Live Now, by the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, where Mrs. Hurtle describes her admiration for the reigning financier of the day, later revealed to be a con man. The hero of the book, Paul Montague, is unimpressed: Mrs. Hurtle: They tell me that he holds the world of commerce in his right hand. What power - what grandeur! Paul Montague: Grand enough, if it all came honestly. Mrs. Hurtle: Such a man rises above honesty, as a great general rises above humanity when he sacrifices an army to conquer a nation. Such greatness is incompatible with small scruples. A pigmy man is stopped by a little ditch, but a giant stalks over the rivers. Paul Montague: I prefer to be stopped by the ditches. 870 Of course, there are those who feel that pressure justifies ethical shortcuts. Gene Upshaw has a long history in the NFL, playing for the Oakland Raiders for 15 years, then serving as head of the players’ union. This is his point of view: “The pressure to win in our league is enormous. The pressure on a player who earns $1 million, $2 million, $3 million also is enormous. If they don't perform, they don't make those salaries. The stakes are so high. Is it realistic to expect all of them to have the highest moral fiber in how they play the game? I don't think so.” 1057 In business, where success is often measured by the scorecard of growth, the temptation to lie and cheat is also intense. Russell Simmons, the owner of Phat Farm, claimed $350M in sales on CNBC; in Newsweek, the figure was $240M, and in his book, $150M. In litigation, he said the sales had never been more than $14.5M. Utterly without shame, after being found out, he called the lies "a good brand positioning statement". Some say such lying is a necessary part of competition, because everyone else is doing it, your brand or company will appear to be a failure if you don’t exaggerate it’s growth or success: “you need to market your brand to the media, customers, potential employees, even potential acquirers. And all of them want to be associated with a brand that's skyrocketing. What's more, claims of rapid growth attract attention from potential customers, which turns the whole thing - one hopes - into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's an equation of deceit that's a dirty little secret of business today. It's a reflection, needless to say, of a supersize me culture in which overstatement is epidemic. There's grade inflation in the academic world, the steroid mess in baseball, McMansions sprouting up everywhere, Hardee's new ,1420 calorie Monster Thickburger. In this world, if your business isn't growing 40% a year, you feel like a failure” Adam Hanft, CEO of Hanft Unlimited, ad firm (1875) Professional athletes make the same claims; as Upshaw implies, they must cheat to compete; once some players start using steroids, they all must use them or be left behind. But this is really more excuse than justification; It is true that in some sports, such as professional bodybuilding, the use of drugs is so pervasive, and effective, that one could not realistically expect to win contests, no matter how hard you train, without taking such drugs. But there is no corollary in the business world; while cheating often confers an advantage, it is not critical. There have been plenty of Wall Street traders who have profited from insider information; there have also been plenty who have profited without it. There are developers who have bribed government officials to get good deals; there have been plenty who have made money without doing so. Rare is the personal injury lawyer who does not engage in trying to mislead juries, but there are plenty of other types of lawyers who do not. The key is to pick a game, or a business, in which you can win playing by rules with which you are comfortable. If you don’t want to take steroids, don’t plan on becoming a competitive bodybuilder, or do, but realize that you are not going to win contests competing against those who cheat. As Adam Hanft says, “companies that grow rapidly often fail rapidly, and the toxic pressures of reporting constant rapid growth are the behind the never ending spate of Wall Street scandals. There's a powerful argument to be made for measured and strategic business growth.” So maybe you simply accept the fact that your business won’t be the fastest growing in the world, but you will grow it in a way in which you’re comfortable. That doesn’t fit with the American “winner take all” attitude, but it very much fits with winning the ultimate game. Profile: A Writer Takes Steroids Sometimes you can win, in the eyes of others, by cheating, yet the personal costs are so high that it still ends up being more like losing. Steroids are a good example. When writer Craig Davidson was working on a novel about two boxers, he took steroids so that he could have a deeper understanding of the protagonist, who took steroids in the book. But he also took them because he enjoyed the feeling of newfound strength and bulk that the steroids made possible; as can be seen from the ironic title of the article he wrote for Esquire magazine in April of 2008: “Look at Me! I’m a Big Strong Boy! If you read his graphic descriptions of the process of using steroids, you may come to the conclusion that cheating may be effective, but still no bargain. On his first attempt to buy steroids he was defrauded; the second successful attempt involved “an encrypted email account, a money order wired to Tel Aviv, and weeks of apprehension”. This is not stuff you can buy on eBay or Amazon.com. He describes the needles, one and half inches long, as “hog stickers”. What he injected was, among other things, Equipoise, a veterinary drug used for horses. He was going to inject it into his “ass; plenty of meat there. But the sciatic nerve radiates from my hip, and if I hot shot the junk into a vein, I could go into cardiac collapse. I tucked a bag of frozen corn beneath my underwear to numb the injection site…The needle slid in so easily I wasn’t aware it’d broken the skin. When I pulled it out, a pressurized stream of blood spurted halfway across the room.” There were 11 injections a week including testosterone twice a week (for muscle mass), Equipose twice a week (to minimize water retention) and Winstrol daily (for muscle hardness). But messing with your body in this way causes a whole bunch of nasty side effects, so Davidson also had to take: - Dianabol (3 per day for first four weeks) - Testosterone cypionate (ten weeks) - Nolvadex (anti estrogen drug, one to 4 pills daily depending on week) - Proviron (male menopause drug) - HCG (derived from the urine of pregnant women, injected during post-cyle therapy to restore natural testosterone levels) Davidson says his drug use was only moderate, and that professional bodybuilders may have fifteen different drugs in their system at any given time. During the first week of his use, his nipples started to itch. “Dump enough testosterone into your system, and your system counters by upping its estrogen output; this leads to a buildup of breast tissue. After long term use it can get so bad that some men require surgical breast reductions. I woke up one morning and nearly had a heart attack at the sight of myself. My nipples were the size of sand dollars, I appeared to have breasts.” This problem is known as gynecomastia, which can be controlled with the Nolvadex mentioned above. But then his hair started to fall out: He started to notice his hair on his pillow, between his teeth, falling into the pages of books he was reading. So the drugs that were supposed to make him a bigger, stronger man were giving him breasts, causing his hair to fall out and then, in the ultimate of all indignities, he started to notice that his testicles were shrinking. Shrinking testicles is a very well known effect of steroid abuse. “I sat up in the dark, gasping, clutching them to make sure they were still there. Within days they had shrunk to half their normal size: sad, shriveled grapes.” Next, he felt a ridge growing on his forehead, clinically referred to as cranial swelling, the growth of a “Neanderthal like ridge forming above the user’s brow, commonly associated with HGH, human growth hormone.” On Davidson’s sixth injection, he hit “a major nerve. My leg bucks uncontrollably, knee nearly striking forehead. Blood leaks from the puncture down my leg.” Then he tries his calf, but hits a vein again. And again. Like any other drug abuser, “sometimes I couldn’t stop shaking” as he injected himself. The lunacy of his regiment extended beyond the drugs. To maximize his muscle growth he tried to eat as much protein as possible, as much as twenty cans of tuna a day, as well as five or six protein shakes. He kept shoveling tuna, oatmeal, egg whites, and boiled chicken into his mouth like a robot. In week six he started having prostate issues. “Imagine steroids as an A- bomb. If your testicles are ground zero, your prostate lies clearly in the fallout zone.…..A swollen prostate crimps the urethral tube, making it torture to piss” , which he was doing 15 times a day. “It also crowds the bladder, making it feel as if I always need to piss, even if there’s nothing to pass.” With all the extra testosterone coursing through his system, he also found the need to masturbate several times a day. So his daily routine was one of eating, taking drugs, working out, and masturbating; and this is the typical daily routine of any steroid abuser. Davidson did get stronger – in fact, a lot stronger, and also much more muscular; the before and after photos are striking. He gained 30 pounds of muscle in a few weeks. But he couldn’t walk more than a few blocks before “a fist sized stone settled upon my lower back…My joints felt hyper extended; constantly popping and cracking…I felt calcified, hardened, and frightenly old.” In that sense, the steroids and the rest of the programs certainly worked, just as they do for many pro athletes. And just as other forms of cheating do for many business people. As soon as Davidson stopped the program, after several months, he immediately lost all of the strength and muscle mass he had gained. Most of his side effects also went away, although he had a partially herniated disk, enlarged prostate, and fluid buildup on one knee as a result of carrying the weight he had gained. “My body now looked worse than before the steroids” due to bloating, although he had returned to his old weight. His nipples still poked out of his shirt. He also worried about whether the routine might have caused him to go sterile. Blood tests showed his liver values were still messed up. You can, in some sense, win by cheating. In the end you just have to ask yourself if it was worth it; if the illusion of victory presented to others was worth all the self-deception and the secret price you have to pay. Hypocrisy: Profile: Ted Turner Like intelligence, there are many different forms of honesty, dishonesty, and deception. There is the outright fraud of those who cook the books, or deliberately mislead investors, customers, or employees – in some cases, just about everyone. There are those who, like politicians, say different things to different people, trying to tell everyone what they want to hear, and, like a good politician, may actually believe what they are saying at the time they say it. There are those who don’t fabricate facts, but just embellish or exaggerate. There are those, especially among entrepreneurs creating new companies, who say what they hope to be the case, or want to be the case, or expect to be the case, rather than what is; this is more wishful thinking than lying. Those who always say exactly what they honestly believe, and who are ruthlessly honest both with themselves and others, are a minority, and are often punished, rather than rewarded, for their frankness. In the transparent world of sports, there is far less room for deception. This is certainly not to say that athletes or coaches, by their nature, are any less inclined to mislead than the average business person. But the bright lights shine much more clearly on every level of sports than they do on the often obscure world of business; the average college football fan knows far more about his teams strengths and weaknesses than the average investor understands about the financial statements of those companies in which he or she has invested hard earned cash. Recommended Reading: Media Man Ted Turner: 6- A terrible hypocrite, and self-centered juvenile, who started in business with a major inheritance, Turner nonetheless created the idea of 24 hour news when he started CNN, and built one of the world’s most important media companies, later sold to Time Warner Hypocrisy is the form of dishonesty when someone says one thing and does another. In modern business, Ted Turner, founder of CNN, is a wonderful example. Turner has had a close relationship with one of the worst dictator’s in the world, Fidel Castro. Castro, one of the last remaining Communist dictators, has routinely imprisoned and tortured political dissenters, and the impoverished citizens of Cuba have died by the thousands trying to emigrate to the US. Yet when Turner went to Cuba in 1981 to cover the May Day parade he said, “Fidel isn’t a Communist, he’s a dictator just like me.” It was his experience in Cuba that inspired Turner to focus CNN on international news. (Media Man. P.43). Despite his comradeship with Castro, in the mid 80s, when he tried to buy CBS, Turner enlisted the help of conservative Senator Jesse Helms, complaining of CBS’s liberal bias, an accusation that would later be made against CNN. (47) Although he had once been a smoker, and smoked cigars with Castro, Turner later adopted a stringent anti-smoking attitude, and refused to hire anyone who smoked. (48). Of his personal 10 commandments, one is “I promise to have no more than one or two children”. (83). He has five. “If I was doing it over again I wouldn’t have that many, but I can’t shoot them now that they’re here.” (87) He drives fuel efficient cars, such as the Toyota Prius, which averages 50 miles per gallon. (86), But he also has a private jet, which is one of the least fuel efficient means of transportation in the world. He gives money to liberal causes, yet opposed unionization in his own company, and changed residency to avoid paying Georgia state income tax. (88) He calls himself a “socialist at heart” yet lead efforts to reduce costs in his companies. When asked in 2000 if Saddam Hussein is evil, Turner replied “I’m not sure I know enough to answer that question. (89). Just about everybody will be friendly with us if we are friendly with them.” (89) An interesting response, given that Hussein, who was responsible for incredibly devilish ways of torturing and killing tens of thousands of political opponents, was one of the few dictators on earth that could make Castro look benign. Despite having shed no tears for the thousands of victims of Castro and Hussein, “Turner is easily moved to tears.” He calls himself a bleeding heart, and cried over the death of Princess Diana., as well as over cartoons such as The Iron Giant, the story of a young boy and his friendship with a metallic being from outer space.(84). p.149 . He opposes violence, but infamously called the 9.11 terrorists “brave”. As associate describes him as a mixture of genius and jackass. As Turner himself says, “I don’t have any idea what I’m going to say. I say what comes to mind.” As Gerald Levin says, “It’s as if a child were speaking without any social inhibitions.” He left a dinner honoring him midway through the dinner – like the self centered like a child he is. p.172 “I came home late with one of my wives – I’ve had several. I was feeling good, had a couple drinks, and said “I really love you honey’. She said ‘that doesn’t mean squat. You love everybody.’”. And it’s true. I do love everybody. I do. I do.” Jane Fonda had this to say about her former husband: “More than anything else in the world, Ted wants to be seen as a good guy. For some reason, he has a guilty conscience. …Although he claims to be an atheist, he wants to get into heaven.” 176 A prime Turner motivation is to satisfy his late father. Turner once held up a copy of Success magazine that featured him on the cover, and looked to the sky and exclaimed “Is this enough for you Dad?”. All in all, Turner is a spoiled, hypocritical juvenile in the classically American sense; willing to take great risks, self-focused, and sincere but without any understanding of the way the world works, despite starting a network that was supposed to make Americans understand the world. He says what he is inclined to say at any moment, without any concern that it might not make sense within the context of his actions, what he has said at other times, the effects on his company, or plain common sense. He wants to be loved, and to be seen as “good” without any sense of the long term implications of his words or actions.
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