Is Business Based on Tricks or Simply Tricky?

“Having a mythical background is an excellent marketing trick.” – Vili Lehdonvirta, as quoted in Oct. 10, 2011, New Yorker article about crypto-currency.

Every great entrepreneur, in time, wraps himself in a shroud of mystery. The stories he shares with the public about his background, his inspiration, his family and his focus are carefully chosen and leaked strategically.

The private stuff usually stays private. And the persona becomes the image he constructs for himself in the public eye.

The suspense is killing us. Really. We are dying for more info, to feel like we’re inching closer to the truth, that we have a special window into the reality behind the facade. We might, but chances are, we really don’t.

So write your stories and spread them widely. Create the personas on which to build your brands. Eventually, you’ll believe the complex web you’ve spun out of fine silk string, and maybe you’ll even live it real.

Or maybe you’ll exist in dual realities – the workplace identity and the one you reserve for only a special few, once you lock the door, walk home and put your feet on the console while you scan through your iPad.

It’s ok to create stories of identity for our brands. Hopefully, they contain within them a kernel of truth, lodged in the foundation of values that you wear in the work world and in your private life. That’s the best scenario.

When an entrepreneur is a jerk in real life and tries to convince the public that he’s a beneficent leader, soon enough the truth will come out. It can help but.

Because with all the information thrown at us in the digital landscape today, we want to see all the cards on the table. We know when we’re being played with. And we don’t have to forgive when transparency is so easy to attain.

It’s Christmas Eve and the Santa story is about to shimmy down the chimney. The story is a good one and verifiable. Did you know reindeer are native to the Arctic? Good character detail, good setting and scene.

My 5-year-old son, in our Jewish house, knew from an early age the truth about Santa. Until last week, when he sat on the lap of a guy dressed in a red suit as we visited our favorite author, Patricia Polacco, in Union City, Michigan.

“When I go back to school, I’m going to tell my friends that Santa IS real,” he said, “because I met him!”

He believed because it was right there before his eyes, a man in a red suit asking if his room is clean and he listens to his mom, if he’s deserving of presents this year. It’s too soon to have the God conversation with him – you believe because you saw?

But the curtain always pulls back, revealing the cowardly, very human Oz. He’ll know the truth in time and when he does, the Santa story will be irrevocably rendered untrue.

We must be careful when we create stories about our businesses. If they’re too far from real, we’ll never build lasting relationships, the kind that build a business that endures.

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