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This article was published on June 1, 2010

Never lie (but don’t tell the truth either)

Never lie (but don’t tell the truth either)
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

I’m a liar.
I often don’t tell the truth.
I give false statements all the time.

The above statements are not true.
I was lying.
The following statement IS true:

The truth is not only boring it is also not very constructive. If you want to achieve anything you will sometimes have to take some liberty with the truth.

Did that get your attention?
Do you disagree?
Do you think an entrepreneur should always speak the truth?

Good, read on then.

Often when I talk about how I build my companies and how I sold them in the past I get questions about the amount of bluff I had to use to reach my goals. Often the word ‘bluff’ is replaced with other less positive words like ‘Lies’, ‘False statements’ or ‘Prevaricate’.

It is good practice to try not to lie to people. I try not too and am generally an honest and trustworthy person. But in many cases I do say things that aren’t really totally and absolutely true. A few examples:

The lie: “I’m very confident about our plans and current situation
The truth: “I’m scared shitless and am doubting everything but I can’t show it because then everybody panics

The lie: “We can do it!!!
The truth: “I think and hope that we can do it but I will be just as surprised as you are if we actually do

The lie: “I knew we could do it
The truth: “We actually did it????

The lie: “YES!
The truth “Maybe. I hope so. I’ll make sure it will be a YES soon. Please lord, let it be YES

I’m sure you have all been in similar situations (I’m lying again! I don’t know that…) and recognize these lines. You probably said similar things. We could argue that these aren’t lies at all and that we are merely trying to establish a self fulfilling prophecy. And I actually agree with that.

In reality the fact that you told a lie depends on what will happen in the future. If you say “Invest in me and I’ll make you a millionaire” and you do, you weren’t lying or bluffing. But if you lose all your money and your company goes bankrupt everything you said suddenly turns into a lie.

There is no way out of this trap. You either tell the truth and don’t get anywhere or bluff a little and hope that reality catches up with your predictions. If you are serious about never bluffing and always telling the truth consider the following pitch to your child who is trying to learn how to ride a bike:

“Sweetie, I don’t know if you will be able to ride this bike. You will very likely fall on your knees which will bleed and turn blue. If you do fall I will try to catch you but I will probably be too late because I’m running behind you. Sorry about that but it is just something you will have to go through”


“Sweetie, I know you can do it! I’ll be right behind you!! Don’t worry, nothing can happen!! Faster!!!”

What would give a child enough confidence to actually learn how to drive a bike? How can you motivate your friends to work harder? How can you get investors to invest in your dreams?

Sometimes the truth just won’t do.

Trust me on this, I know what I’m talking about (damn, did it again).

Previously posted here.