I was talking to my 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 not accredited and 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 for some strange reason he doesn’t have a copy of his doctoral dissertation. Not a very good way to end a supposedly sterling career.
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 impeccable credentials — former military officer, high-level education credentials, and lots of big-name endorsements. He explained that he had made a lot of money preaching about such qualities as virtue, character, morality, and integrity — which is almost always a bad sign. As Thoreau observed, “There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.”
Bill volunteered to send me the audio tape that contained Dexter Windbag’s remarks about me and my first book, Winning Through Intimidation. I probably should have told him not to bother, but I was curious as to why a supposedly highly respected person would make nasty comments about someone he had never even met.
When the tape arrived, I put it in my 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. (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 occurs more often than people might think.)
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 long time ago, so I don’t recall Windbag’s exact words, but the sum and substance of his chest-pounding rants was:
“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?”
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. (Yes, the Fake News Media was alive even then.) But this guy wasn’t a critic. He was a motivational speaker who had clearly succeeded in creating an image of being beyond reproach.
Yet here he was, this paragon of virtue, using my good name to puff up his own image by feigning disgust and moral superiority. My first thought was, “Who in the hell is this self-righteous jerk?”
I would be inclined to say his remarks were just a result of jealousy, but I think it was even worse than that. Rather, I believe that people like Dexter are so narcissistic that they are constantly in search of ways to pump up their own egos — whether it’s lying about their credentials or lying about a person they don’t know or lying about a book they’ve never read.
Unfortunately, Dexter Windbag is not an isolated case. 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 a self-righteous fantasy world created in their own minds.
You might think that I’m smiling at Windbag’s fall from grace, but I am not. I’ve been around far 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.
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 fuel 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, “When a man boasts about his integrity, or a woman about her virtue, avoid the former and cultivate the latter.”
Excellent advice if you have one or more Dexter Windbags in your life — which I suspect you do.