Why CEO Joe May Not be the Millionaire He Claims He Is

Scenario: "Dude, I've got a million bucks up the heezy, going to get a Viper for my warehouse, and about to buy 5-acres of land in Menlo. Salute me. Yay!" You know the people we're mentioning at those networking functions: The superhumans that seem to take over the room by flashing their supposed wealth. Rest easy. Most people who claim they're something probably aren't that something. It's a common narcissistic trait, and you've probably been around more this month than you can count with two hands. You know, the people who claim:

  • Claim: "I have a team of 100 software developers in India."
    Truth: I use Rent-A-Coder.
  • Claim: "My revenues grew 500% last year!"
    Truth: My revenues grew from $100 to $500.
  • Claim: "My company's won 7 technical excellence awards!"
    Truth: I created those awards myself.
  • Claim: "I just bought a $1 million house!"
    Truth: My mom just bought it, and she's giving me the basement.

Those crazy folks. But, we love 'em for their spunk.

It Doesn't Just Happen to The Narcissistic Folks

Now, don't confine yourself to the narcissistic ones. Most of the population tend to overgeneralize who they say they are -- of course, not to a big extent as those beloved folks above. If you feel finding yourself "inferior" to the rest of the networking crowd, don't trip: Most are probably embellishing their accomplishments. Researchers from the University of British Columbia conducted a study with 211 students that tested their over-generalizations:

Students [were asked] to rate their knowledge of cultural referents such as The Lusitaniaor Pygmalion, as well as non-existent items such as "El Puente" or "1966 Glass Animal."

Results from the Narcissistic

Students with narcissistic character traits (as determined by an earlier personality test) were more likely to express familiarity with all items, including the fake ones.

Results from the Non-Narcissistic

Subjects then viewed the same items and new ones, and indicated their certainty about what they'd already seen. Subjects given more time to reflect on the items were just as likely to falsely claim familiarity with them, leading Del Paulhus, Ph.D., to conclude that over-claiming is an unconscious process.

So the next time at you're at a networking function, take what people say with a grain of salt. At the least, they're probably embellishing a bit. If you really want to know who they are, log onto Dun & Bradstreet, and check some financials. And if someone's claiming their some spectacular superstar that's trying to make you worship him, just use this beauty:

"Joe, you live in your mom's basement, son."


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Posted on October 29

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