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10 Ways Honesty Makes You More Money

Recently by James Altucher: I'm a Sloppy Chip. Are You?

Admit it: you were jealous of Bernie Madoff. For a split second. That night in December, 2008 when you first heard the news, interrupting the ongoing panic of every bank going out of business, every job disappearing, every ATM machine running out of cash, the organic fruit at the farmer’s market skyrocketing to $200 an apple. For a brief moment, you heard that news and you thought, “He stole $65 billion. Man, I would’ve had cosmetic surgery on my face and then moved to Brazil with that kind of money.”

And then the truth came out. The news that the money was never there in the first place. The suicides. The owner of the Mets managed to get his money back just in time. A woman from Minnesota called me, crying, saying “why is it they keep going on about the poor jews who lost their money. I’m a Christian and I lost my last $800,000.” It became a bit more real then. Madoff in jail. His wife was left with a measly million or two and finally the horror of their son killing himself.

But, for a moment, there was: what would I do with $65 billion?

And then reality: the only way to make money in this world is to lie and steal.

I get that question a lot (i.e. more than twice in the past few weeks) in my Twitter Q&A sessions: why is it that you have to be dishonest to succeed in this world? And people don’t believe me when I say that’s not true. They say back, “that’s not been my experience.”

Not: do you have to be dishonest to succeed? Nobody asks that. People seem to know the answer already and they want to know, structurally, why is this truth?

Capitalism is still suffering from the mortal blow struck it in 2008. Everyone was a crook. And Madoff was just the tip of the iceberg. Mubarak’s family ran away with $200 billion by the time he was kicked out of Egypt. Every day I get in my inbox news of another Ponzi scheme. Yesterday it was a $4.9 million dollar hedge fund down in some swamp country in Florida.

Why? People want to know. People maybe want some justification. Maybe they are really asking: ok, I’ve been avoiding it until now but should I take the plunge and start being dishonest in order to make money? And then maybe the next question: can you give a “top 10” for how to be dishonest and make money?

The problem is this: they are completely wrong. Dishonesty never works. Honesty is the only way to make money in today’s world.

Nobody believes me on this. People laugh at me. “Don’t you know anything? Of course dishonest people step on the honest people and have more success.” People want to justify their own failures and use their pretend-goodness to explain why they didn’t start Google, or steal $65 billion, or get that last promotion when the backstabbing bitch from aisle3 got the raise after doing who knows what.

But here’s the truth.

Dishonesty works…until it doesn’t. Everyone messes up. And when you are dishonest you are given only one chance and then it’s over. You’re out of the game, at least until you get your act straight and you have to start from scratch with your tail between your legs.

Honesty compounds. It compounds exponentially. No matter what happens in your bank account, in your career, in your promotions, in your startups. Honesty compounds exponentially over not days or weeks but years and decades. More people trust your word and spread the news that you are a person to be sought out, sought after, given opportunity, given help, given money. This is what will build your empire.

I know this through countless failures. The more times I fail but communicate about it, the more times I make no money at all but let someone have ideas for free, the more times I try to “get mine” but only end up getting stabbed by those who think its ok to be dishonest, the greater the number of seeds planted and the more money in the long run I’ve made. Be dishonest once, and all of those seeds will be washed away in a thunderstorm of life-killing proportions. A hurricane of despair that will sweep away all of your opportunities forever.

10 Ways to Be Honest:

Give Credit. Even if the ideas were all yours. Even if you made nothing on them. Even if they were blatantly stolen. Give credit and move on. Hoarding your ideas for the moment when you can shine, will only leave by yourself in a dimly lit room.