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As someone who works in media, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of bombastic, superfluous, and downright ridiculous statements made by people and businesses in the name of public relations, or worse, personal branding. Now, look, I get it: all of us want to present the most impressive versions of ourselves and our enterprises to the world, and if an Instagram filter or a white lie here and there helps us do that, well, one can argue that’s relatively harmless. But, surely, shouldn’t there be a line drawn somewhere about the amount of exaggeration or hyperbole that we attach to someone or something?
This is the thought that has been plaguing me after being recently subjected to an alarming number of baseline mediocrities that have been dressed up as apparent accomplishments worth shouting to the world about. Be it the wannabe influencer who talks a good game but has nothing substantial to show for it, or the platform that declares itself to be the next big thing just because it says it is, I have, of late, been finding myself puzzling over a number of instances where the façade being showcased is a far, far cry from the reality on the ground, especially when you get down to the brass tacks of it all.
Now, this is not really an issue that is new to the entrepreneurial landscape- cautionary tales abound about startups that essentially plotted their own downfalls by using falsehoods and fictions to portray themselves as functional businesses when the truth was that they were anything but. And yet, it sometimes feels like our ecosystem continues to be flush with poseurs and pretensions hell-bent on realizing the “fake-it-till-you-make-it” fallacy, and it’s downright exasperating to see many of them get ahead of those who do things the right way, putting in the hard yards to realize something meaningful or impactful.
I suppose this is the point when one of you pipes up to tell me that we live in an unfair world, and that, as such, I should not begrudge those who “hustle” or “play the game” to move themselves up the ladder of success. But such an argument makes me curious about what you consider an achievement per se- can drinking your own Kool-Aid really quench the vacuousness you surround yourself with? And let us not forget that you will have to remove the blinkers you wear one day or the other- one can only hope that the effort you’ve unnecessarily put in keeping up appearances will be worth something then.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: being self-aware can only ever do you good. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Corporate Finance found that “boasting about performance is rarely associated with value creation,” and that’s something I’d urge individuals and institutions alike to consider the next time you wish to shoot off your mouths about something you’ve done. It’s one thing to celebrate what you have accomplished- it’s another thing altogether to do that in isolation of everything that’s happening around you. By all means, celebrate your small wins- just don’t make them bigger than they actually are.