The Top Ten Lies of Guy Kawasaki

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by: Guy Kawasaki 

1. “I already have a meeting at lunch.” This isn’t a lie if you consider talking to people on the bench between shifts a “meeting.” What can I say? One of my great joys in life is playing hockey, and some of the best games are at lunch time during the week. So if I tell you this lie, it probably means I’m playing hockey that day.

2. “I think what you’re doing is interesting, but it’s not something for us. The first half of this statement is the lie; the second is the rock-solid truth. I tell this lie when I’m presented with an idea that I don’t think can succeed. I use it because I am chicken shiitake/soft-hearted. The good influence of my wife prevents me from being a total orifice and crushing people by saying, “You have a stupid idea.”

In the past I experimented with telling people why I thought their idea wouldn’t succeed, but this only caused long, often hostile, conversations. To this day, I struggle with how to say “no” to entrepreneurs in a respectful way without giving reasons and getting into a long discussion. I cannot provide an explanation every time, or I’ll never have time to blog. 🙂 Please provide suggestions as comments.

3. “You need me more than I need you. In order to become a venture capitalist, one has to swear that you believe this. It’s called the Hypocrite’s Oath. We may never actually utter this lie, but it permeates every aspect of our existence: what we drive, where we eat, how we dress, where our kids go to school, and especially how we communicate with entrepreneurs.

It’s total bull shiitake. We need entrepreneurs as much, or more, as entrepreneurs need us. We need you to help us raise our next fund; we need you to pay for our lifestyles; and we need you to reinforce our delusions that we add value to companies and “make” kings.

4. “It’s a pleasure to speak here today. Many speakers say this when they begin their talk. Sometimes I do too. The truth is that it’s probably not a pleasure because I had to fly out on Sunday to get to the East Coast for a Monday morning speech at 8:00 am Eastern (but 5:00 am for my body). But you can’t start a speech by saying, “It sucks to be here” and expect to be successful. 🙂

However, this isn’t a total lie because about thirty seconds into a speech, the audience lifts me up and takes me to “the zone.” Then, no matter how far I flew, how little sleep I’ve had, and how shiitakey I feel, I go to a place that is outside my body, and a force takes control. At that point, speaking is truly a pleasure–as I hope my audiences can tell.

5. “I can help you partner with Apple. If I ever tell you this, just kick me in the nuts. I’ve been out of Apple for nine years, so I have few connections there. When Apple comes out with new stuff, I stand in line and pay full retail just like anyone else. When my computers break, I wait in line at the Genius Bar. I certainly don’t have the juice to make any kind of big deal happen with Apple. (I wonder if Jack Welch has to buy his light bulbs at Home Depot.)

6. “I don't care about making money with my blog. I wish that I could be a full-time blogger. I love blogging because you get to be writer, editor, designer, publisher, and sales manager. It’s like being a mini media company–GuySpace? You set your own editorial agenda, deadlines, and ad rates. How cool is that? You find me a blogger who says he doesn’t care about making money blogging, and I’ll show you a liar.

7. “It’s not the money. While we’re on the topic of money, I tell this lie when asked to write, speak, or consult for low fees. But it is the money. I have four children and a wife, and I hate to travel away from them. If a for-profit organization wants me, it has to pay. I don’t care how prestigious the event is or what beautiful resort it’s in (all I’m going to do is answer email from my room and speak anyway), I simply won’t do it.

I’m more of a pushover for not-for-profits; the test in these cases is whether the organization is changing the world, and I believe I have a moral obligation to help out. But no cause is more important to me than my family.

Incidentally, ingenuity does count. For example, I’ve spoken for vastly reduced sums during the NCAA Frozen Four in Columbus, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin as well as the Heritage Classic in Edmonton. Hear that St. Louis?

8. “We don't have a position at Garage or in our portfolio, but I'll keep you in mind. This is a lie of duration. At that instant in time if I can think of a relevant position, then I help. But I don’t have the bandwidth/disk space/chip speed to keep the candidate in mind very long. Usually I refer people to a portfolio company of ours called SimplyHired which aggregates about five million job openings. The interesting thing about this lie is that many people are very thankful for even this response; I think it’s because most recipients never respond to such emails at all.

9. “I didn’t mean to slash/trip/board or knock you down. This isn’t a total lie. It’s simply a ”shading.“ I didn’t mean to do all these penalty-inducing things, but people sometimes get between me and the puck, and I am goals-oriented person.

As Henry James, brother to William, once said at the end of a long essay about the rules of writing, the only rule is, “Be generous, be delicate, and always pursue the prize.” Two out of three isn’t bad for me.

10. “Macintosh has lots of software.

This is a lie that I told in my sordid past–circa 1984-1987. It is closely related to the lie I told software developers: “You can make a lot of money writing Macintosh software.” What can I say? Guilty as charged. I was young and less moral then. Not that this justifies anything, but I believed what I was saying.

Bonus: “I don’t care about my Technorati ranking.”

I care a lot about my Technorati ranking, and it’s important for you to know why I care. I believe that the number of links is a proxy for the quality of a blog: the more links, the higher the quality. (Clearly, this isn’t true for all blogs, but this is how I look at my kind of blog.) Therefore, caring about my ranking parses to caring about the number of links parses to caring about the quality of my blog. And I take great pride in the quality of my blog.

While I’m at it, there’s another reason that I care so much about my ranking. I want to show the closed “club” of A Listers that that someone can come out of the blue, not play their petty, hypocritical games, and rise to the top because of good content. Even more important, I want to encourage the 45 million other bloggers out there to do the same–or better. Hence, I have a particular fondness for organizations like BlogHer.

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