I was talking to a friend (“Bill”) a few weeks ago, and in the course of our conversation he happened to mention something about the business troubles Dexter Windbag (pseudonym) had encountered in recent years. I had no idea the guy was still alive, and had no interest in hearing about his troubles.
Nevertheless, my friend proceeded to tell me how Windbag had been ousted as a director and spokesman for a multi-level marketing company for misstating his academic credentials. In Windbag’s official bio, which he used to rise to the top of the professional speaking world, he claimed to have both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. However, investigators apparently found that the school from which he claimed to have acquired his master’s degree had no record of him ever attending that school.
Further, the university from which he claimed to have a Ph.D. was unaccredited, and had closed down after only sixteen years of existence. Conveniently, the former president of the university claims that Windbag’s records have been lost, and Windbag himself says that he doesn’t have a copy of his doctoral dissertation.
Why was my friend telling me all this? Because clear back in the 1970s, Bill, who also was a professional speaker, had called me one day and asked if I had heard what Dexter Windbag had said about me on his new audio album. I told him that not only had I not heard it, I didn’t even know who Dexter Windbag was.
Whereupon Bill informed me that Windbag was a highly successful professional speaker with a squeaky clean image. His credentials were impeccable — former military officer, high-level education credentials, and lots of big-name endorsements.
Bill volunteered to send me the audio tape that contained Dexter Windbag’s remarks about me and my first book, Winning Through Intimidation. If it were today, I wouldn’t even bother to listen to it, but at the time I was a newly minted bestselling author, and my curiosity/annoyance factor got the best of me — curious as to why a supposedly highly respected man, who made his living preaching about such qualities as virtue, character, morality, and integrity, would say anything negative about someone he had never even met.
When the tape arrived, I put it in my Sony cassette player and began listening to it. The first thing that surprised me was that Windbag, notwithstanding his reputation as a big-time professional speaker, was not even an average speaker. I clearly recall how surprised I was by that. (In a later article, I’ll address the phenomenon of how low-skilled, untalented people sometimes stumble into situations that lead to their becoming accidents of history. It’s a kind of randomness, and it occurs more often than most people realize.)
After listening to the tape for ten minutes or so, from out of nowhere — Bam! — Dexter Windbag, the epitome of virtuousness, suddenly blurted out my name and the title of my book. Even though Bill had told me about it, it still took me aback. It was a very long time ago, so I can’t recall Dexter Windbag’s exact words, but I sure remember the sum and substance of what he said, and here’s a close paraphrase:
“Can you imagine someone writing a book with a title like Winning Through Intimidation? What kind of person would promote the idea that the way to get ahead in life is to bully others?” (Again, this is a paraphrase; the quote marks are only for the purpose of setting it off.)
Obviously, Dexter hadn’t read my book, but I had already gotten used to critics taking shots at me without even going to the trouble of actually reading my words. But this guy wasn’t a critic. He was a motivational speaker who had clearly succeeding in creating an image of his integrity being beyond reproach. Yet here he was, this paragon of virtue, using my good name and work to puff up his own image by feigning disgust and outrage. My first thought was, “Who in the hell is this self-righteous jerk?”
I would be inclined to say that it was just a matter of jealousy, but I think it was even worse than that. My theory is that people like this are so narcissistic that they will do anything to pump up their egos — whether it’s lying about their credentials or lying about a person they don’t know or a book they’ve never read.
Unfortunately, Dexter Windbag is not alone. There are a lot of self-important people in this world who not only will do anything to feed their narcissistic appetites, they also come to believe their own B.S. to such an extreme that they live in an alternate universe. I have a hunch I’m on pretty safe ground if I assume that you’ve known more than one Dexter Windbag in your time.
You might think that I’m smiling at his fall from grace, but I’m not. I’ve been around too long for things like this to surprise me. On the contrary, being the kind-hearted soul that I am, I have the utmost sympathy for people who are afflicted with serious diseases.
Specifically, in Dexter’s case, I’m talking about the dreaded ANEL Disease — ANEL being an acronym for arrogance, narcissism, egomania, and lying. ANEL-afflicted people are almost as dangerous as serial killers, because their self-love gives them the justification for resorting to anything that will further their insatiable appetites for self-aggrandizement.
David Ogilvy, “The Father of Advertising,” once gave the best advice I know of when it comes to handling people afflicted with ANEL Disease when he said (pardon my slight customization of his words), “When a man boasts about his integrity, or a woman about her virtue, avoid the former and cultivate the latter.”
Thoreau put it even more succinctly when he proclaimed, “There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.”
And, finally, Ringer said: “Ignore annoying people, move on with your life, and leave it to nature to straighten everything out over the long term.”