Don’t be an Art Garfunkel
When my children were much younger, my wife and I—like all good parents— tried to teach them important lessons like right from wrong and good from bad. For our family, many of these lessons were taught on family drives when everyone was together and we had their undivided attention. On one particular trip, the subject of lying came up, and my wife began to outline what it meant, why you should not lie, and whom it hurt.
I interrupted the lesson to impart my wisdom—lying is bad. Lying to yourself is worse. I don’t know what type of relationship you have with yourself. But me and myself are pretty tight. We talk a lot. We are both super high strung, and we both believe in unvarnished truths.
Maybe instead of calling it lying to yourself, let’s call it insincerity in your self-dialogue. You are your biggest cheerleader but also your closest confidant. And it is important to keep it 100% real between you and yourself. If you don’t, you wind up making profound mistakes.
My dad and I have a name for this problem. The Art Garfunkel.
Simon and Garfunkel may be the most iconic duo in music history. If you don’t know who they are, stop reading, investigate them, and come back. The rest of you can read on.
Although Simon and Garfunkel met as children in Queens, most of what we know of the duo is really a five-year window between 1965 and 1970. In that time they wrote and created some of the best folk music to ever exist. They were storytellers and performers. Then, one day in a stunning display of no self-awareness, Garfunkel told Simon, “I am out.”
I honestly wish I could have seen the face on Paul Simon. Anger or confusion? My gut tells me confusion. I don’t know the talk track, but I would guess it went something like this.
“Seriously, Art. I come up with the words and the melody. I tell you what to sing and where, but you think you are better off without me? Good luck, my friend.”
We see this in many walks of life. People fail to take a serious inventory of themselves, their business, and the landscape around them. Athletes, actors, business people, your neighbor. They overvalue themselves and undervalue the world of talent around them that could easily replace them. This is why you need to be honest with yourself. And, equally important, find friends and colleagues who are honest with you.
About a decade ago we had a client say, “You know what, you guys are big agency thinking without the big agency bullshit.” I was then, and remain today, proud of that sentiment. Don’t bullshit your clients, your coworkers, or your customers. And, most importantly, don’t do it to yourself. You may have some short-term losses by talking plainly, but in the end, it will save you much heartache. Coo-Coo-Ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson.
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