Thanks, Cameron — and hello to everyone else! It’s an honor to post on this blog.
I caught a piece this morning on CBS’s Sunday Morning about the forthcoming film The Hoax. Richard Gere plays Clifford Irving, the writer whom Howard Hughes hired to write his autobiography in the early seventies. Except for one small detail: Hughes actually had nothing to do with it: it was a complete fiction. For a good while, Irving succeeded in fooling the entire world (including the formidable Mike Wallace in a mano a mano session on 60 Minutes), and the book was on its way to becoming a major best-seller when the hoax was finally revealed.
This morning’s show interviewed Irving himself, who, when asked what he thought of the film, said he hated it, and dismissed as “a complete fiction—it bore almost no resemblance to what actually happened.”
Wait a minute. Rewind: play that again.
Yes, you heard it right: Irving, who professes that he “never once thought we were doing anything illegal” (though this state of ignorance-is-bliss did not prevent his doing years of jail time for fraud) and to this day seems utterly oblivious to the idea that he actually did anything wrong, criticized the film made about his story because it wasn’t entirely accurate to real-life events.
And he said this without a trace of irony.
It reminded me of events a year ago, watching James Frey on the Oprah show in early 2006, admitting to the world that his best-selling “memoir,” A Million Little Pieces, was largely, um “exaggerated.” In other words, a million little lies, and some big ones, too. Oprah ran Frey though the ringer, hauled his publisher Nan Talese onto the show and excoriated her too, apologized to her millions of viewers for having let herself be taken in, and summed up the whole affair with two words that may have been the noblest, best-spoken and more important two words of 2006: “Truth matters.”
It sure does. What’s amazing to me is that we seem to need reminding. But evidently, we do—which means that business leaders with strong ethics will always be a commodity in great demand.
I just listened to the complete, unabridged audio version of You Call the Shots (William Dufris does a great reading, by the way!), and one of the passages that especially struck me was what Cameron says about ethics in business, near the end of the book (p. 213): “Ethics provides a clear glimpse into the humanity that lies at the core of all business. … Businesspeople who practice sound ethics can open closed doors, overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and go home each night to sleep peacefully.”
It’s a great way to sleep. — J.D.M.