What’s the Difference between Deliberate Fiction and Lying?

The other day, I mentioned this book I’m reading, Ensouling Language. The author, Stephen Harrod Buhner, is very helpful in awakening passion and bringing clarity of purpose to authors. Towards the back of the book, he talks about the pragmatics of getting your book published where he says, “If you only learn one thing about book proposals, learn this: they are a specific genre of fiction.”

This got me thinking about the plethora of examples of business fiction that we regard as non-fiction. The first example that popped up was a startup company business plan. Like the author of a book, the entrepreneur can’t tell you what will happen in 3 years or 2 years or even in 90 days. Everything is in the state of continuous change. That’s part of startups, and it must be this way. Yet, when these entrepreneurs make presentations to potential investors they tell them a story that is expected to be as close as possible to what’s actually going to happen.

This process creates great tension between the parties. Investors often accuse entrepreneurs of misleading them, and the entrepreneurs probably don’t feel too good about the situation either. If we could just agree up front that it’s not possible to know the future, and what is being presented is only today’s best idea of how things will turn out. Then we could all focus on how we can support each other in the unexpected twists and turns.

This storytelling happens in so many places. I remember when we applied for 501 c3 (non-profit) status with the IRS for our foundation. One of the IRS requirements is for the foundation to tell the IRS who it will be doing business with and at what level of spending over the next five years. HOW COULD ANYONE KNOW? If you don’t make up a plausible story, though, you don’t get past go with the IRS.

Is all this making liars out of us? Maybe. If we hold to the illusion that the future is knowable and pretend we can write stories that will turn out with certainty (kinda like fairy tales) then yes, many of us are liars. On the other hand, if we just stop and recognize we are writing fiction and it has the value of helping us see the potential of our future vision, then we can be in integrity.

I for one, suggest the latter. It’s better for everyone.

Until later,


Author: Thomas White

Over the past thirty-five years, Thomas White has created and led private and public organizations that initiated breakthroughs in areas as diverse as computer software, publishing, printing, market research, leadership development and organizational change. The common ingredients in his success are simple. He looked beyond the limitations that others believed and found real solutions to needs that business leaders have. He attracted the best talent to translate these innovative solutions into practical products and services that were of high value to customers. He created cultures where people love what they do, work at their best and produce extraordinary results. In addition to his role as a business leader, Thomas has been a pioneer and inventor of technologies in the computer-networking field. He is a patent holder for innovations in business process and workflow technology. As part of his passion for educating others about the interface of human and computer systems, he was the co-author of “New Tools for New Times, The Workflow Paradigm”. He has also written articles for numerous publications. In 2001, he turned his attention from leading companies to supporting leadership teams in creating organizations of excellence. After many years of being a part of the machine of change, Thomas recognized that business is the most powerful force in the world. It has a major impact on public policy and governments everywhere. It is a key influence on how we use our resources and sets an example of the values that shape communities from local to global. He formed the consulting firm of Profoundly Simple to be a guide for exemplary leaders - leaders who wisely uses the power they are entrusted with to serve their constituencies first and themselves second; leaders who know that it is good business to treat people with respect, honor the environment and act with impeccable integrity – leaders who inspire greatness in those around them and by doing so create great organizations that are notable examples of success. Feeling the itch to get back into the game again, Thomas joined with two long time friends, to start the C-Suite Network. This network of business leaders offers an online network, events, services, and insights to its 500,000 member community. In addition, the C-Suite Network produces and distributes television and radio content to an audience of over 5M per month

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