Your First Big Lie

Do you remember your first big lie? Do you remember how delicious it was? Do you remember the fear? What is it that makes it so memorable?

Undoubtedly there were many lies before the "first" … but they are lost to memory. Certainly my earliest "memorable" lie had precedents – but "the" lie stands out because of its audacity, its scale and the passion with which I told it. It was my first exposure to building my own personal brand. It was a significant investment in the brand ME.

When I was about the age of 9 I heard the story of a child being born on a cruise liner. It sounded fantastical. So I adopted this story as it was far more glorious than my own boring, hospital birth. I became the "boy born on a boat".

I soon learned that the lie was not enough. It needed a story. It needed characters and drama … it needed energy. BUT most of all, it needed consistency.

Like most 9 year olds, I knew that managing a good lie required commitment. But this was no problem, because I had carefully mapped out the details of my story … I was born on the Indian Ocean (specifics are important), my parents were returning from an extended holiday (the supporting cast) and it was unexpected as I was 13 weeks early (well this is true, but that ALWAYS helps — and you do need drama).

My celebrity grew. All my friends were able to repeat my carefully crafted story. They told friends who told friends, and very quickly there was a buzz that was hard to believe. I was invited to "hang out" with the older kids, given sandwiches and cakes. My 9 year old life had been turned upside down by this story (note the lie had been lost in the story).

So why is this important? Isn’t there a problem with lying? Seth Godin claims all marketers are liars, so perhaps I was just an early developer!

No … the reason this is important, is that stories have a life of their own. Once you release them, they are no longer your own. Of course, stories have a beginning, middle and end — and sometimes the ending is tragic. This story stays with me because of the wide range of emotional experiences that it brought to me. And I learned many lessons … the most important one being "to tell the truth".

Believe you me, there is nothing nice when your teacher looks you in the eye and asks you to confirm your lie. Though I do think I could have held out longer if I knew that the non-blinking eye she trained on me was actually glass! (Second lesson in this — don’t try to win a stare war with a teacher with a glass eye.)

Got a good lie to share? I would love to hear it!