I’m so awesome, sucks no one believes me
Oh man, my train was delayed for a WHOLE hour this morning. No one told us what was going on. It was so cramped I reckon a woman was starting to suffocate. My boss was so angry with me. If I miss critical deadlines again, I’m fired. He’s after me.
Where did I get this tiny bruise on the side of my face from? Oh, that… Yeah, I got smacked by a vicious thug when I was wandering home late at night at the weekend. I only got away because I’m so fit.
So fit, I ran a marathon in under 3 hours once. Haven’t I told you?
Some people can’t resist exaggerating their goings on. Puffing up their lives with minor exaggerations. Chances are you know someone who, over drinks or dinner, makes a wholly unconvincing and harmless effort to make their daily grind sound that bit more interesting.
It’s no different in politics. Paul Ryan, the US Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, was exposed by Runners World magazine as having run a marathon an hour slower than he’d claimed.
Under three hours, he said. In reality it was more than four.
A mighty achievement, finishing a marathon. Seems a whole lot less mighty when you’re exaggerating the results, though.
Ryan was pulling a ‘Hillary Clinton goes to Bosnia’. In an effort to burnish her foreign affairs experience in a tight presidential primary campaign, the woman who’s now the chief foreign policy officer of the United States claimed to have dodged sniper fire while on a diplomatic mission to Bosnia in the 1990s.
An American TV news station mocked it as “like a scene from Saving Private Ryan”. Saving the Paul Ryans of this world from their own exaggerations is another thing, because exaggeration comes hand in hand with ambition.
Talking about a series of studies of students who embellished their grade point average in a leading American newspaper, a UK psychologist said: “Basically, exaggeration here reflects positive goals for the future, and we have found that those goals tend to be realized.”
In normalspeak, the studies implied that exaggeration might be a symptom of people setting high goals for themselves into the future.
It can be a forgiveable sin. But one that can lead to more serious transgressions.
As was the case with Scott Thompson, the former CEO of Yahoo. Shortly after taking the role, he had to resign after allegations he had invented having completed a computer science degree.
And then there’s the case of journalist Jonah Lehrer, who invented quotes from Bob Dylan to make an otherwise fascinating argument about creativity in his book, Imagine.
At least Lehrer had the medium right. Books are the right place for fiction.
As for me? Wasn’t late this morning. Train was on time. Couldn’t run a marathon to save my life. I walked into a fake candle cruise missile someone chucked across the room at a bar on Saturday and copped a tiny scratch on the side of my face. Suspecting Bosnian snipers at this point.
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