I have hesitated to write about this past week’s revelations about Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong until I had some time to process them, and until I gave the Te’o story a little more time to play out. What these two stories have revealed is remarkable in a lot of ways. But the two words I keep returning to are gullibility and sincerity.
Of course, Manti Te’o demonstrated incredible gullibility in emotionally embracing a woman he had never met and who, as it turned out, never existed. But he is by no means the first to do this, and it was being done long before there was an internet. The combination of wishful thinking, distance, and a longing for a meaningful relationship has resulted in heartache throughout the generations. In Manti Te’o’s case, however, it was not just the cruel people who apparently pulled this trick on him who were liars. Someone has either lied or misreported the facts and circumstances of the case—perhaps one of the authors of the multiple stories, perhaps Te’o or his father. The details about meeting his “girlfriend” at a Stanford game and about her travelling to Hawaii on multiple occasions are irreconcilable with the other details that have come to light. So this is not just gullibility at work here.
But there is every indication that Te’o is sincere. Everything revealed in the back story points to a genuine young man who cares about others and is largely selfless. Of course, many think that he covered up details to minimize embarrassment, and some have said he was ensnared in the Heisman hype. But this does not seem to be someone whose life is primarily oriented toward self-aggrandizing behavior.
On the other hand, if insincerity was an art form, Lance Armstrong would be Van Gogh, only with two ears. I found it painful to watch his conversation with Oprah Winfrey; it reminded me a lot of the interviews I have watched with a litany of business executives who have “come clean” far too late to make any difference, except perhaps for their own conscience’s sake. Listening to Lance Armstrong is enough to make you instinctively reach for your wallet. He is the epitome of a calculator, using others for his own gain until there is no gain to be made. He may have made a bad calculation this time because he went from a rich person no one trusted, to a rich person no one trusted who is about to be sued for all past and future earnings. I generally don’t believe in wage garnishment but, in Lance’s case, I will make an exception.
On the other hand, I am probably wrong about what will happen to him. Lance Armstrong is a master calculator, and he has almost always had those calculations work out according to plan. I would not underestimate his ability to generate cash flows from book and movie rights that are more than adequate to cover any additional liabilities arising from his “transparency.” He was able to keep the ruse going sufficiently to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles, even though many were suspicious of his doping from the very beginning. And he systematically sued his enemies, into oblivion if necessary. If you are dealing with someone ruthless and insincere, my advice is to watch your back.
But there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion. And, in our culture, we love liars. We love them because we want to think the best about people, but we also love them because they flatter us, and because we prefer fantasy to reality. We want to believe the unbelievable. And we bow down and worship these people who fulfill this unreality we seek. We avoid the hard questions that would point to who these people really are.
Actually, in some ways, gullibility goes hand-in-hand with sincerity. The same qualities that made Manti Te’o susceptible to an internet love affair cause us to embrace those who somehow fill the crevices of disappointment in our lives. The public was as gullible about the Te’o story as it was about the magical accomplishments of a cycling cancer survivor.
How do we keep from doing this over and over again?
Be sincere, but don’t be gullible. And remember that the real heroes, the ones who can actually make your life better, are sitting at your dinner table, and in the living room, and behind you in the classroom. They are working tirelessly in obscure pulpits and elementary school classrooms and fire stations. They will never talk to Oprah, because she would not be interested, and they would have nothing to say to her. The protection for these sincere people is that they are content, and they do not need the Lance Armstrongs of the world to make their lives worthwhile, and thus they are not gullible.
These people are my heroes.
Well said, my friend!
That pretty much sums it up. Good read Dr. Shaub. Keep em coming!
I think you made some good analogies in this session, and greatly pointed out that we often need to both cherish and protect what is close to our hearts. While entrusting in others in important, perhaps it is safer and more rewarding in the long run to always have a hint of skepticism. Maybe the close friends and family of Te’o and Armstrong believed that they could truly trust them and protect them. However, by withholding a bit of skepticism, they may have opened up a floodgate of pain and suffering. To conclude, perhaps one could have the most enjoyable life by trusting people constantly, but always maintaining a bit of skepticism may prevent a plethora of hurt.
I agree, Scott. I really liked what you said about cherishing and protecting what’s close to you heart. I think this is most important in the business world but it is unfortunately something we need to carry with us in our personal lives too.
I don’t think close friends and family normally have a need to be skeptical. While you and I should be about stories like that of Te’o and Armstrong since they are complete strangers, trusting your close friends and family is a small part of what makes that relationship special. Unless they have done something explicitly to break that trust (like Armstrong and to a lesser degree Te’o), I’m going to believe that my family is telling me what they think is the truth every time.
I feel that you should not be skeptical around the people that you are closest to. Having those close friends/family is kind of like faith. In a way you just have to make that leap and have trust in others, but only if they have earned it. I think that someone has to earn your trust and that it should not be given away freely.
I agree Bobby. I think that skepticism isn’t something you should have to practice in regards to your most trusted inner circle. Trust is an integral part of close relationships. If you question every one in your life, it will take away from the relationships you have. In a professional setting, this is of course a different story.
I agree to a certain extent Scott. I believe though that we have to balance skeptism with faith in others. There are some people in our lives like close family and friends that we must have faith in that they are being honest. Unfortunately when they lose our trust we battle with losing that faith and facing a hint of skeptism. It is hard, but necessary in order to protect ourselves.
I believe in the work field and outside of family we must always use some skeptism. In the end, people will look out for themselves and that may involve deceiving us. it is our duty to balance trust and skeptism to avoid gullibility.
Scott, great point about always remaining skeptical! I try do this in literally every relationship I am ever involved with, but it really is difficult when it involves people I wholeheartedly love. I know this sounds cold hearted, but I really believe it is necessary. I feel like this stance is even more important in the world of business. We witness history repeat itself in every fraud case. The person who withheld skepticism and went along with the fraud due to immense pressures always seems to get the most severe sentencing.
Also, I just want to highlight the fact that Armstrong’s current wife* knew about his doping. This seems to contradict the thought that she wasn’t skeptical. She simply ignored the facts to protect someone she loved. This seems to raise another question about the difficulty of reporting family members when they are knowingly committing crimes. The only example I can think of is Madoff’s sons. How they immediately turned their father in, I honestly don’t know.
*I believe his ex-wife knew as well.
I enjoyed reading about this post. I am a sports fan and it was nice to read about something that I have some knowledge about. I found the last paragraph very inspiring because the true heroes are really the people that I interact with everyday.
My takeaway from these types of stories is to verify and find out the truth, if at all possible. I try to hold out on believing until I can have some sort of reasonableness to believe. Unfortunately, most things are too good to be true. In the case of Lance Armstrong, it’s naive to think he won 7 Tours ‘clean’ in one of the ‘dirtiest’ spots. Like a lot of people, I was also a victim of believing that Lance Armstrong won the Tours drug free. I only began to doubt Lance Armstrong after I read/heard about some of the prevalent activities that take place in the professional cycling culture.
Now, when possible, I try to find other outside or independent sources that help me paint a more clear picture of the situation that I am looking at.
I like your last sentence. We really need to step outside the case or find others to help us paint a more clear and objective picture.
As Dr. Shaub said, to keep skeptical or suspicious is to prevent harm. It is important not only in work but also in real life. But it’s not good for us and people around us to have so much suspicion. People who do not trust others are also hard to be trust by others.
Well said. It definitely helps to look at the bigger picture with the help of an outsider’s perspective. This is similar to the quote we discussed in ethics class stating, “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” The key word in the quote is “doubt” because skepticism should be exercised to a certain extent before accepting something as truth. This, however, does not mean that doubt means no one should be trusted. People deserve trust to an extent unless they have exhibited an action to lose it.
“But there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion.”
I agree with this, and I would rather be labeled gullible than fearful to build meaningful relationships with people due to my skepticism of their character. However, there is a line between gullibility and stupidity that some tread on. I think you have it right with the concept of sincerity mixed with discernment.
I completely agree with you! As Dr. Shaub mentioned, our heroes are the people we interact with on a daily basis. However, whose to say that they can be fully trusted? Sometimes we are deceived by our family and friends. I would rather develop rich relationships with people than live in constant fear or skepticism.
I completely agree Catie. I think the time when we should be skeptical is when these everday heroes are no longer your average joe so to say. These everyday heroes should be engrained in our society not standing above it in a place of glory. Their stories should be spread as proof that good people exist, but they should not develop a sense of celebrity from their good deeds.
I agree with you Kellie. A life trusting people is far better than one where you are in constant suspicion. However, it doesn’t protect you from the hurt that comes when someone betrays that trust. For me at least, I expect famous people to lie. Or not necessarily that they are lying, but the media is lying about them. I have no idea if Mate Te’o is truthful when he says he truly believed this girl existed, I just know it’s not my place to know. As for things that might affect me, I hope that I have the discernment to know when someone is lying. Or the humility to talk to friends and family around me, and hopefully one of them will have the discernment needed.
I agree that there is a line between being gullible and being stupid. When you are in the presence of friends and family, it is ok to let your guard down and be a little gullible and believe what they say, even if it is not always the complete truth. However, when it comes to internet and mail scams people go from gullible to stupid. Greed is so powerful that it makes us do irrational things. When people send money to strangers, for what ever reason, believing they will somehow make millions of dollars in return, they far surpass the state of being gullible and become stupid.
I followed the Manti Te’o story pretty closely while everything was unravelling because I wanted to make sense of the whole situation. My only comment on the situation is people are gullible because they wanted to believe it. The reason he got the Heisman nod is because of his performance at a game that he felt it was his duty to play when he really “wanted” to be with his sick girlfriend. He played the game of his life and everyone saw him as a hero under the circumstances. No one wanted to even fathom the idea that their hero was a fraud because it was such a good story. We do this in society when we want to romanticize him. Gullibility arises because we want to believe that their are fictional heroes in the real world, but when he became human again, no one wanted to believe it because their hero had died.
I am curious as to what your opinion is on those we consider close to us that ultimately seem sincere and we believe to be our real heroes (family, friends, legitimate significant others, etc.), who end up falling in the category of insincerity? Do we believe them to be real heroes simply because of their title and the role they are supposed to play? Is it just bad luck or are we being gullible just as Manti Te’o was?
Jason, I think this is a very good question to ask. I completely agree with Dr. Shaub that I think everyday people are the ones that we consider our heroes. They are the ones we count on the most and look up to the most, but aren’t they always the ones who let us down the most? What happens when those people are not who you thought they were? I know I have a clear head in objective situations, but when it comes to my family I will do anything for them. I think this is where Manti’s lack of objectivity, because of the role his “girlfriend” was supposed to be in, that lead him to be so gullible. We place trust in the people that we allow to get close to us and it immediately clouds our judgement regarding them. I know I am guilty of it and Manti clearly was.
Sometimes I think that we are just as gullible as Manti Te’o when it comes to the people we look up to letting us down. Many people have different definitions for the term hero. Some peoples heroes are athletes who most of the time are not good role models (i.e. Lance Armstrong), some are celebrities, world leaders, religious figures, and family, but the thing is no one is perfect. People that fail to grasp that people make mistakes will always be let down. But I think the bigger question is how they handle their mistakes and learn from them that shows their true character. Someone can still be a hero if they make a mistake such as Helen Sharkey who came to terms with what happen and is now using her situation to help others. That makes a true hero.
I do not understand why Te’o would do something as selfish as lying that his girlfriend had passed away in order to gain sympathy and Heisman votes. Was he so infatuated with the idea of winning that he didn’t calculate the consequences of such a lie coming to light?
Based on some minor research on this situation, I honestly believe that he knew all along that his “girlfriend” didn’t exist. This being the case, he was playing on the emotions and gullibility of all of his followers, many of which looked up to him as a real life super hero for accomplishing the feats he did after such tragedy. I can’t agree enough with Dr. Shaub’s closing comments on how real heroes would never appear on Oprah because she wouldn’t be interested, and they would have nothing to say to her. Sometimes it takes extremes circumstances, such as the Te’o and Armstrong incidents to remind us that the people most important to us in life are closer than we think.
Great blog! On my internship we had a lot of conversations over those two guys and people had lots of assumptions about it. Your blog really made me start thinking when I started reading from paragraph 6 to the end. I completely agree that our real heroes are the ones in our everyday lives! It is so easy to look past that and get caught up looking up to people in the media world that we will never meet. While I do think there are great people out there that we can look up to and are a positive influence, I do believe the best choice are those around you and that may be unknown to others in the world such as you listed. Your last two sentences state it perfectly. Thank you for pointing it out and helping me reflect on who those people are for me in my life. It is sometimes easy to forget and not appreciate them enough.
How fine is the line between gullibility and trust? I wrestle with this daily and have been accused countless times of being far too trusting or, in other words, gullible. In my opinion, the society in which you grew up as well as your experiences shape and are perhaps directly correlated to the extent of these qualities in your character. The more firsthand exposure you have to lying, for example, the less gullible and more skeptical you become. I am not going to inherently be skeptical about Te’o’s love life. Why would I be? I have no reason to be. Nothing from my experience would cause me to question the integrity of this story. The possibility of a highly successful, American, professional athlete using illegal substances to attain such success is something that countless athletes before Armstrong have conditioned me to be less gullible about.
I rarely agree with anything that is said about Lance Armstrong, but I agree with everything you said. You talked about “calculators” earlier today in class, and it clicks a lot more when you relate it to Lance. Everyone (and by everyone I mean the few friends of mine that actually know why he is famous) likes to give him the pity of being a cancer survivor and forget about how a sincere human being should act, when that whole time he was just calculating the consequences of if/when he ever got caught, and what would happen to him. Honestly, I don’t think his consequences were harsh enough, especially since he is already old news.
And as far as Te’o goes, I don’t believe a word he said to the media. He never had a girlfriend, at least not an actual human being, and some people just deserve what they get.
I am currently reading The Last Lecture, and I think Pausch says it best in the case of Manti Te’o:
“That is what it is. We can’t change it. We just have to decide how we’ll respond. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
Whether Te’o fell victim to innocent gullibility or not, I think his choice to stay silent in the wake of false media reports revealed a lack of moral courage. While he may not have created or encouraged the reports, his response to the situation fell short of displaying honesty and transparency.
In my opinion, though, more important than the role he played in this scandal is the fact that he takes this situation as a learning opportunity. Being a college student, I can relate to allowing outside pressures to affect my decisions. However, it is these experiences that shape our future responses to difficult personal and professional decisions.
How people respond to tough situations is definitely a mark of their character. One day in our career, we may be put on the spot for something that is compromising or hard to talk about. I hope that all of us will be grounded enough in our personal convictions and character to be strong and courageous and do the right thing, even if it’s hard. I think that the Dr. Suess quote “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind,” sums it up best. We all make mistakes, we all have to deal with the consequences. I, for one, know that I would be much quicker to forgive someone who openly and genuinely admitted their mistakes than with someone who tried to obscure them!
I love the quote you referenced. I agree that Te’o lacked courage and transparency in failing to set the record straight. Moreover, I can’t say that any college student hasn’t ever lacked those same qualities at some point. When I look at myself, and the social pressures we as college students face on a daily basis, I can’t help but think: thank goodness I’m not a Heisman nominee! Many people seem to forget that Te’o is a student subject to the same pressures and mistakes that the rest of us are. The only dividing factor between us is that our mistakes aren’t broadcasted for the entire nation to see and judge.
Interesting read. I have to say I agree with your take on both these men’s situations.
Hearing stories like these are disheartening to me, and makes me wonder how many things like this go on that are never seen by the public eye.
Although I agree Teo’s actions stemmed from good intentions, it’s still disappointing at the lack of responsible decision making and skepticism that he exercised. Growing up, one thing I was always taught is that “ignorance is not an excuse.” That’s why it’s tough for me to feel bad for this guy.
As with Armstrong, I think it’s pretty clear why I am disappointed in his actions. There is no excuse for his actions, and it disappoints me to hear his success was only gained through cheating.
This makes me wonder, how many ethical, competent leaders are still out there? Hearing stories like these seems to be becoming the norm, not the exception. Or maybe it’s that we just don’t hear about the ethical leaders because they don’t make the front cover of the news.
I really agree with your statement regarding Manti Te’o that “ignorance is not an excuse.” When an individual lives their life in the public eye, as the face of Notre Dame in Manti’s case, the rules change. While Manti was absolutely gullible, it is certain that he was also dishonest. I find it hard to pity him for being gullible when he knowingly misled millions of people about his relationship with his so-called girlfriend, regardless of his motives.
I could not agree more with Professor Shaub on his comments about Lance Armstrong. I would almost describe Lance’s performance with Oprah Winfrey as sociopathic. He seemed so calm and collected as he recounted stories of ruining peoples lives through lawsuits. While Lance will probably retain most of his vast fortune, he will not retain his priceless reputation.
When you said “And, in our culture, we love liars. We love them because we want to think the best about people”, that reminded me of the infamous Anne Frank quote “In spite of everything, I still think that everyone is good at heart” which is one of my favorite quotes of all time. Yes someone may be a liar or insincere, but they have it in them to come back and do some selfless good, even if they have lost the trust of everyone around them. I think that for the most part, even the most intolerable acts were done because the person who pursued it thought that some good would come out of it. Everyone acts selfishly every once in a while, but like Anne Frank said, I still think that everyone is good at heart. I am in no way condoning what Lance Armstrong did, but rather than lose all my faith in humanity, I’d rather have the hope that people like him can turn around and do something selfless even if the public has lost faith in him.
In the last paragraph you stated to not be gullible, but how can one control that? I know I have fallen for a few lies in the past without even thinking twice about it, and that’s what I think when I hear the world “gullible”. To me it sounds like you may be saying that being gullible implies that someone, when deciding whether or not to believe someone, may know that something is up in the first place, but they choose to trust that person despite that.
Interesting read. It reminds me of the “professional skepticism” you talked about in your Audit class. One should not be completely trusting of a story one hears at first, but should not compeltely disregard it either. When hearing of Te’o’s story, I absolutely believed it. I had no reason to think it was untrue. After the developments of Teo’s and Armstrong’s stories though, I feel inclined to do more research before accepting a story with certainty.
Ben, I can relate to you. When I first heard Te’o’s story I believed it too; I didn’t think twice. In fact, part of me was hoping he would win the Heisman because his story was so convincing. I’m guilty of trusting people upfront and believing what they say is the truth. It wasn’t until I started this ethics class that I started second guessing some of the work I had done on my internship or conversations I’d had with the client. The client could have told me false statements and I never would’ve second guessed him.
Being the people person that I am, I strive to build relationships with people and connect with them. After only having this class for about three weeks now, I can see why that can be dangerous. As auditors, one of our most important duties is to maintain professional skepticism. Once I start full-time, I am going to have to learn to not be so trusting and gullible. No one wants to get caught up in the downward spiral like the “pleasers.”
What surprised me about the Te’o story was the lack of research done by sports media outlets. It seems mind-boggling that not one news site (except for Deadspin) tried to find out a little more about Te’o’s girlfriend. Gullibility at its finest. After incidents like this, I find myself being more skeptical and remembering to not believe everything you hear. Trust but verify.
I agree with Jacob and I too was surprised the news outlets did not do more research to uncover the facts. It seems that once a few news outlets post articles about a story, then there is a false sense of credibility given to the content. This reminds me of the ponzi scheme’s we discussed in class. A few people started receiving high returns, which made more people want to invest simply because of what they had heard from other people. People became gullible and did not do research into the portfolios before they invested. I don’t think it is a bad thing to trust other people but sometimes it is always good to get the facts yourself.
Very interesting read. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions on the situation. I followed the Manti Te’o story pretty closely. I wanted to know every last detail to try and put the puzzle pieces together while everything was unraveling. While I had my own thoughts on the situation, I had the opportunity to hear and discuss what my family, friends, and coworkers thought. Everyone had their own opinions, but no one made your point that our real heroes are the ones close to us every day. I completely agree. Although there are people in the media who we can look up to and have a positive influence, the people we need to cherish and protect are the ones close to our heart. (the individuals we are constantly around). Like you said, these people are content and sincere making their lives worthwhile. This post can also be related to auditing, in which one should always have a hint of skepticism. After hearing stories such as the ones listed above, one should not completely be trusting of the details at first. Entrusting in others is important, but it is safe to have some skepticism about situations in the beginning. Thank you for pointing out that our real heroes are in our everyday lives.
Dr Shaub, I found this to be a very interesting read. At first I had no reason to question the Manti Te’o’s relationship, but after the news was revealed about his girlfriend being a hoax, I was skeptical that Manti Te’o was just being gullible and completely innocent about the situation. I find it hard to believe that he had this relationship for so long without having any doubts of the girl’s existence. With various alleged failed attempts to finally meet her in person I believe that this should have raised some red flags. Along with the technology of today, including video chats, I believe he should have been able to realize this hoax a lot sooner. There is a difference between being gullible and being ignorant of the situation. I also question if he was involved in conducting this hoax.
I agree with what you said about Lance Armstrong being a calculator. I was not skeptical of Lance Armstrong and his achievements at first because I wanted to believe in him and the things he was able to do. I am naturally a trusting person but with the unveiling of this scandal surrounding Armstrong I will always have a hint of skepticism of future athletes who achieve so much. I also agree that our heroes are those that surround us every day. We often do not take the time to appreciate and recognize the heroes are in our lives and I want to thank you for reminding me of this. I enjoyed reading this and I look forward to read more in the future.
“And, in our culture, we love liars. We love them because we want to think the best about people, but we also love them because they flatter us, and because we prefer fantasy to reality. We want to believe the unbelievable. And we bow down and worship these people who fulfill this unreality we seek. We avoid the hard questions that would point to who these people really are.”
As I read this post (and specifically the portion I have copied above), I couldn’t help but think of the article you’ve posted for your ethics class, “Fooled by Ponzi (and Madoff)” by Stephen Greenspan. Within it, I read how Bernie Madoff was able to fool thousands to invest in his scheme that ultimately lost them at least $50 billion.
No matter what caused them to invest, the deceived were expecting a much different outcome. According to Greenspan, many invested not because of a promise of outrageously high returns, but instead they invested because of a promise for slow and steady returns. They wanted consistent returns within the ups and downs of the market, and this is what Madoff promised. The thousands of investors saw this as the ideal situation and (most) failed to question it. What they were seeking was a fantasy, but Madoff was the liar who they trusted to make it reality.
Just like Armstrong (and maybe Te’o), Madoff deceived the public into believing he is something other than the truth. As you’ve said, in order to avoid repeating these situations, we must learn to not be gullible. And more importantly, remember that our heroes are the ones sitting next to us at dinner, not the ones doubling our money or living out our athletic dreams.
I think another important reason why Greenspan and other investors fall into the scam is because they are sincere people that trust other’s words easily. They trust someone that is close to them, it may be their friends, families or someone their friends or families know about. And when people really want something to happen, like getting rich or being healthy, they will become vulnerable to temptation and less suspicious.
I couldn’t agree more about the sentence “in our culture, we love liars”. I think this is an universal thing, no matter is here or in other countries. The nature of human being makes us love people who flatter us and believe something untrue to be true. However, this fantasy will just impact our judgment and make us gullible to nice things. Therefore, I think to become someone who is not gullible, we need to be conscious about nice things and nice words. It’s not like you should doubt everything, but just ask yourself “is this too good to be true”?
Your point about listening to Lance Armstrong give a “sincere” apology on Oprah got my wheels turning. For many top athletes (and executives for that matter), I can understand how hard it would be to remain sincere. Once you have reached the pinnacle of your profession, it would be nearly impossible not to see yourself as better than others. Especially after you have lived a life of being told how great you are. So, even after he was caught he could have still felt that he didn’t owe anyone anything, and that no matter what happened people would still love him. I think that mindset showed in his overall response to the scandal. It is a shame though, because many did view him as an excellent role model for so long.
As for Te’o, I have fallen in the camp of those who believe that he did try to cover up some of the facts. I do feel bad for him though. Like Kellie covered in her post, who would want to live in a world of suspicion? I applaud him for at least giving that relationship a chance, because in the end, you never know what will happen. I do believe though that after he found out it was fake, he shouldn’t have kept up the charades. Because of that, he lost a lot of goodwill in my eyes.
I agree with you in your opinions and comments about T’eo. I think that he was an unfortunate victim to believing and trusting in someone that he really cared about. I believe that T’eo trusted in the good of people, and never thought that someone he had grown to love would ever deceive him to such a significant extent. However, I do think that there were details with the T’eo story that were not released once they were discovered for sake of his being in the running of the Hesiman. I understand from a publicity standpoint T’eo being hesitant to make all of the facts of his story known as well as wanting to save himself the embarrassment of the public knowing all the facts of what happened to him.
My opinion about Lance Armstrong is that he was a honorary public figure who was corrupt from the start. Personally, I don’t believe that Armstrong would have ever come clean with all the facts of the situation if he didn’t think that he would be caught or that there would be severe repercussions in the near future had he not come clean.
Overall, I think you’re opinion about the gullibility and sincerity (or lack thereof in some circumstances) is point on with what I believe. I think we, as society, tend to want to believe that there is a silver lining of every cloud (myself included), and we get caught up in this desire to believe that there is good in every person we meet and fall gullible and susceptible to their deceit. I think there is a happy medium with being trusting and having someone earn your trust. While trust should be earned in some circumstances, I also believe in someone being given the benefit of the doubt until they’re proven otherwise. Be sincere, give others the benefit of the doubt, but without a doubt be cautious in doing so.
Very interesting read and I have to say I am still skeptical on the Te’o story. It still does not make sense to me. There isn’t any substantive evidence that he wasn’t in on the scandal. The best evidence they had was the reports of “phone records” showing the calls, but it turns out it was just spreadsheets that weren’t able to be actually confirmed. His teammates claimed he loved the attention, stating that he would “point himself out to friends when he was on TV.” Also, they said no one believed that was his girlfriend even though he played it up as his tragic story. Most people who lose loved ones do not like to talk about their tragedy. Furthermore, he continued to lie about the story after he supposedly knew she wasn’t real. Also, why would Tuiasosopo fake her death after many months of keeping it going? After all, he claimed that he “fell in love with Te’o.” None of it makes sense. Remember, it wasn’t until deadspin couldn’t find records of his made up girlfriend that this story exploded. While I am not saying I believe he was in on it, I still would not rule it out. And if he wasn’t in on it, then he still is a liar and ,according to his teammates, full of himself. Not only that, he would have to be the most gullible person in sports history, and that is a hard feat to accomplish with some of the brilliant sports players out there. If that is the case, what is he going to do when Tom Brady performs one of his play action fakes? Either way, I wouldn’t want this guy on my team.
I have to agree and disagree with you Kieth. I agree that it was publicity stunt; however, I disagree that Te’o is a liar. I feel that we all make mistakes in life and that somethings happen that we can’t control. I personally don’t know the guy to tell you if he is a liar; however, I do feel like it unnecessary publicity.
This was a very well written article and it brings up a great question that society struggles with very much today – when does being too trusting equivocate to gullibility? Giving trust freely to others is a characteristic that many people have. I would say 99% of the time, the glass is half-full and the trust is returned from the other person without any harm. Successful relationships of all types have to be founded on rock-solid mutual trust. That being said, there is that 1% of the time when trust can be defied and harm is done. One of my favorite authors/speakers, Brian Tracy, says that you have to believe that the human race, as a whole, is good. Being skeptical and untrusting seems like a stressful, paranoid life to lead. That’s not to say that sometimes there will be disappointment. But that also goes hand in hand with the fact that we are human and mistakes are inevitable. I think the solution to maintaining a balance of trust without gullibility is not to live a life of complete paranoia, but instead to “trust but verify.” To me, that means trusting while also doing your own research.
I really enjoyed your statement, “trust but verify.” It is easy to get into the mindset of the world being black or white. Either you have to trust everyone, or trust no one. Your post reminds me that there is a healthy balance to be reached, and that you can learn to place a healthy amount of trust into people (because most are ultimately good) while staying alert to potential signs of insincerity or harm.
This is a great blog with a message that I think people need to be reminded of every now and again. As someone who is generally very trusting and looks to find the best in people, I think gullibility is something I will need to constantly think about to be able to see what is really happening and not what I would hope to be happening. Especially in the field of public accounting, it is important for an auditor to check themselves and be sure they have the support they need beyond what they are being told. Words can be false, just like a girl online can be nonexistent.
This is a great article. To have these two large news stories appear around the same time has opened up the eyes of many to ask what is true and what is not. It causes many to dig deeper into the facts rather than take everything for a grain of salt.
I’ll admit that I like to believe the best in people. I, like many, believed that Lance Armstrong was a successful athlete because he worked so hard and overcame many obstacles. He was seen as an example for all sports dreamers that if you work hard, you can succeed. It is so disappointing to hear that he cheated in order to win 7 titles.
A question that I pose is where is the line drawn between believing people and being skeptical of what they say or do? This question can be asked for public figures as well as those people in our daily lives. Our ethics class is helping me become more aware that the truth some say may not be perceived as the actual truth. Truth is different to different people, and it is important for us as professionals and individuals to recognize that.
When these stories broke it crossed my mind that it was a shame that they surfaced simultaneously. As the media bombarded us with sorted details, taking every opportunity to sensationalize, the two scandals kind of washed each other out. Had we been able to process them independently, we may have been more inclined to evaluate the skewed values that have evolved in our society that allowed these situations to happen.
We love heroes and when they emerge with drama, romance, or a challenged past all the better. Manti Te’o got sucked into a cruel scheme by twisted people, but for a few months it made him seem like an athletic saint. He played football at Notre Dame, had a girlfriend he cherished who died the day after he lost his grandmother, but he played the game on Saturday. Then he was a Heisman candidate and his team played for the national championship. I mean you can’t make this stuff up. Oh wait, yes you can. In fact even Manti Te’o was so mesmerized by his life that he made more stuff up to make the story even better, and you have to wonder if in the moment he actually believed what he was saying. Until the multi layered lie came tumbling down we all ate up every dramatic detail.
You could say that Manti Te’o was a victim of our lust for heroes, but Lance Armstrong was a master at cashing in on it. None of us wanted to believe that the cancer survivor who won seven Tour de France titles and the creator of Live Strong was a cheating, lying, calculating freak. With each title we admired him more. Even though his success was unbelievable, we scorned his accusers because we loved our hero who overcame the impossible. Would his deceit have worked if he had not survived cancer? Did his cancer, that was arguably caused by the illegal doping, fuel his rise to heroic fame? As long as he kept winning, even though the evidence against him mounted, we believed in him because we are suckers for heroes with a story. Lance Armstrong knew that, took advantage of it and made it work for him.
We all need to give some thought to what really makes a hero.
“…there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion.”
I think this introduces a higher level of life-goals and ideals we all strive toward. We all have basic needs and desires that appeal to all of us, regardless of our position in society.
I believe Te’o’s desire to find a deep relationship clouded his judgement and allowed him to look past what would have, in an ordinary relationship without emotional attachment, been considered red flags.
Similarly, Lance Armstrong’s desire to be well liked and successful are not uncommon to you or me; however, he, like Te’o, became blinded to the truth. It’s unfortunate because I found myself always siding with Lance as allegations came out over the past years, thinking him incapable of such deceit, especially after defeating cancer! We all want to believe in miracle stories, but like the saying goes, sometimes it really is too good to be true.
“But there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion.”
This line of your blog really caused me to examine how I trust those in my life. It is true that most people would prefer to be gullible, as it allows you to believe what you want and you never have to really examine yourself. It is harder to trust others, since trusting requires you to examine yourself and sometimes requires you to be brutally honest. You can no longer ignore certain qualities, trusting requires you to examine them head on and make a clear evaluation on your feelings regarding them.
This reminded me of the famous quote from Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Stopping to think critically about your life allows you to identify areas that can be improved, and to see patterns of behavior that you have been unconsciously repeating. When you have the courage to face the truth even when it is painful, it allows you to grow as a person and prevent yourself from making the same mistakes you have made in the past.
I believe that how trusting or how skeptical you are depends on the situation. In my personal life, I find that being a trusting person towards the people around me has a beneficial impact on the relationships I build. I have not ever regretted being too trusting in my personal life. My individual belief is that I will extend trust to someone and give them the benefit of the doubt unless they do something to betray that trust. In that case, they can build that trust back, but I will probably be more skeptical towards their words and actions until they prove that I should trust them again. Initially though, I don’t believe that trust is something that should be earned.
However, in a professional sense, auditors have a responsibility not to be too trusting and instead display professional skepticism. They should not trust their client, no matter how ethical or nice the client appears to be. A lot of the masterminds behind the frauds that we have been reading about in the assigned articles have religious backgrounds, or in the case of New Era, even have religious/philanthropical motives. Just because they seem like people who can be trusted, the smart thing to do is to be skeptical and to not fall gullible to their deceptive schemes. As auditors, we should not rely solely on what the client tells us and ensure that substantive evidence is obtained to back up what the client claims.
I really enjoyed reading this post because I think it brings up some great points from these headlines. I followed a bit of Manti Te’o’s story when it happened and I found it particularly interesting. I believe that there are many people who are being scammed and manipulated, whether emotionally or financially, on a daily basis. Te’o’s story is unique only in that it was thrust into a very public national spotlight, and for that I do feel bad for him. On the other hand I believe that the lack of transparency on Te’o’s end after he had discovered the hoax was very insincere and disappointing. He knew just how much media attention and sympathy he was getting with his story, so he should have never led people on with it after he knew it was false. Even if Te’o was trying to be a trusting person with this relationship, it blows my mind that any logical person would not have noticed the warning signs of it all being a hoax. In this day and age where millions of strangers are interacting daily through the internet, it is important to be cautious with where you place your trust. What I believe is important in the end is that trust should always be hand in hand with sensibility.
Really enjoyed this one. I remember being so disappointed when the stories first came out. I have a hard time believing that Manti was completely ignorant of the fact that his girlfriend wasn’t real and that he had nothing to do with the scam. As for Lance, he had always been somewhat of an inspirational figure and for all of that to just be completely shattered, it makes you wonder who else out there isn’t quite what they seem.
Losing faith in your own ability to trust people is something that I personally struggle with and I know plenty of other people out there who do as well. At what point will we go from trusting everyone to not trusting anyone? I want to see the best in people, but unfortunately the actions of a few have made me skeptical about the actions of the rest of the world. However, I still believe it is important to trust. If you don’t trust anyone, then what incentive does anyone have to trust you?
You make an excellent argument about being sincere while not being gullible. I can see how gullibility could be the culprit behind creating a false sense of trust. However, I would like to say that when people we admire seem sincere, it is very difficult not to be gullible. While it is a good way to look at things, I believe that not being gullible is easier said than done.
Reading this blog really gave me some deep thoughts about the sincerity and gullibility. This question confused me once a time when I was in my high school. That time I always thought that how one person be sincere and not gullible at the same time. Because being gullible is the basis of being sincere. However, as I grew up, I found the difference between these two.
Being sincere is absolutely significant. No one wanted to be cheated. As the Golden Rules said, we should not act one way toward others but have a desire to be treated differently in a similar situation. So, if one want others to be sincere, he or she must be sincere first. And I consider sincerity as one kind of virtue. Because nowadays, people always want to hear some beautiful lies. Like even though you know so well that one of your eyes is smaller than the other one, when someone says that you have a really nice and shiny eyes, you still feel happy and flattered. We become increasingly insincere just because things unbelievable would satisfy our vanity. So that’s why gullibility comes out.
Trust is the key to maintain the relationship between people. It is wonderful to say that one trust another. But gullibility is not such a good word. If one is gullible, maybe I would say he or she is kind of naive as well. Because he so much believes in those rhetoric words without thinking about the truth. And basically, it is because those gullible people have more expectations which are so strong that make them cannot tell if other people are telling the lie. I would say that expectations are the motivation for people. However, one should know that himself is the main character of his life. So you should stay sober about the truth, to trust but not to be gullible. That’s what I get from this topic.
One point I think ought to be addressed in Armstrong’s case is the widespread doping in professional cycling. While it may be an easy excuse for him to fall back on, it also true that large numbers of cyclers (including many of his competitors) were doping and lying about it to the rest of the world. While his titles and records will be forever tainted, I believe that his doping does not totally negate the positivie things he did for cancer patients around the world.
I’m not seeing the connection between gullibility and sincerity. Can you help me out? I understand the we fall hook, line, and sinker for stories that make us feel good and make the world seem okay. And I understand we are often fooled by insincere con artists who play on our gullibility. But how does our sincerity protect us from gullibility?
This post makes me think of Matthew 10. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
I think that when the general public gets the impession that an individual is sincere then the public tends to be more gullible because of already perceived genuine character. I think that is why I believed Lance Armstrong’s story before it was further investigated. I already had the impression that he was a sincere man because of how generous he was with his money and his strong efforts to raise money for cancer; little did I know, I fell victim of the lie that he might have caused his own cancer by taking enhancement drugs. This reminds me of those individuals that trusted the Ponzi scheme created by John G. Bennett Jr. Because Bennett Jr. appeared sincere and driven to help good charitable companies, a lot of individuals thought that it was impossible that he could have run such a deceptive company.
It’s scary how charismatic (i.e. seemingly “sincere”) people are able to fool so many.
As a competitive cyclist and a supporter of the livestrong foundation, you can imagine how disheartening it was to watch the Oprah interview. When I first found out that he was confessing to doping, I didn’t understand why everyone was so surprised. My initial reaction when my father asked me how I felt about it was as follows “Well, they all dope. You have to dope if you want to win. The drugs don’t do all the competing for him. So if everyone is doping then they are technically on the same playing field. He just happens to be the best doper.” I actually was one of the only people that felt bad for him for all of the public scrutiny. The reason being that the many cyclists who use performance enhancers are sometimes never found out, and when they are it is never as harsh as what Lance has felt. It was only taken to this level because of the fact that he won Le Tour so many times.
This reminds me of the business world, and the ethical dilemmas that many have faced before us. We have seen countless examples of people that will do whatever it takes to get to the top. In a lot of cases, they will lie, cheat, steal, and back stab their coworkers in a moments notice all for the benefit of themselves. It is likely that a Ponzi Scheme in the amount of $100,000 will be less scrutinzed than one in the amount of $1 billion. Ultimately, a Ponzi Scheme is a Ponzi Scheme. Insincere ringleaders and gullible victims are a recipe for disaster.
I think it’s important to realize that the greater part of my generation is gullible. We’re taught to believe that people are inherently good and hope that what they are saying is actually true. We believe that what our teachers tell us is right and that we can trust others. However, during my lifetime I have seen many heroes such as Armstrong, becoming cheating villains. I explicitly remember hot summer days watching the tour de France with my father in Austin. As the camera would show Lance in his bright yellow suit, climbing mountains, I probably wouldn’t even want to walk up, my dad would explain how he had survived cancer. As I would drive through the rolling hills of Austin, my dad would tell me that this is where lance practiced for the great mountains of France. I believed what my father told me and admired the soon to be liar.
The shocking part for me now is to realize that just like other liars have (and as you have mentioned in your blog) Armstrong will succeed in making money off of “coming clean”. This story alone has taught my generation to be less gullible but more importantly that lying and then telling the truth can still make you rich and famous.
Thanks a lot Lance and future villains of the world.
Both of these stories are very peculiar to me. First off, with the Lance Armstrong situation is it very ethical for him to be the only one punished for his doping when apparently the entire culture of competitive cycling is engulfed with it? I definitely am not agreeing with what Armstrong did, but at the same time, if all the other competitors were doing the same thing was he really cheating? I feel that many of the cyclists today are unethical, and those hiding behind Armstrong’s confession are the most unethical. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Armstrong is ethical for confessing, but a least he admitted to everything he did.
Te’o on the other hand, in my opinion is a victim of gullibility as you said. On one hand I think “how can you really have bought into this huge lie”, and on the other my heart goes out to him if he was that desperate for some genuine attention and affection off the field. The whole story is a little fishy to me, and I agree with you when you say someone is lying, whether it’s the authors, Te’o or his father, because the story just does not add up. If Te’o truly did believe this “girl” was real, hopefully he has learned a lesson and will be a little more guarded next time.
“But there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion”.
I found this quote to be chilling…especially after reading all the articles on Enron and WorldCom and how people fell prey to the lies because they preferred the feeling of trust to suspicion. The quote also reminded me of the book I am reading for class, Why I Left Goldman Sachs. At my current spot, the main character is at a time in his life where everything (career, salary, opportunities, personal situations) is going perfectly to plan. However, around the same time, he can’t help but notice red flags in the firm’s business practices that are beginning to make him uneasy. Instead of acting on these red flags or asking questions, he decides to trust the firm because he feels that they are too “top notch” to put themselves or the employees in any real danger. The main character incorrectly decides to place his trust in the firm because to him this is more preferable than being constantly suspicious and “rocking the boat” when he is in such a great place in his life. I feel that being gullible is not so much a character trait or lack of intelligence as it is a mindset we sometimes (even voluntarily) put ourselves into when we don’t want to ask the hard questions or think about the answers that might result from them.
Just as Manti Te’o fell prey to a false girlfriend, so can all of us to false mentors or facts in the business world. It is scary to think about, but I appreciate this post reminding me that I am not immune to gullibility and the affects it can have on both my personal and business life.
I completely agree that the heroes of this world are the people we will probably never see on television or in a magazine. Heroes are those people behind the scenes who do not need or want credit. They are sincere in their actions because they want to be, not because of any self-seeking motive.
Also, in regards to gullibility, how easy it is to fall prey to something so unrealistic yet so intriguing at the same time. Lance Armstrong’s case seems to greatly mirror that of a Ponzi scheme. People want to believe that something so unrealistic, something one would only fantasize about, is actually true and real. People invest their money in these schemes because of their gullibility and lack of skepticism, just like many firmly believed Lance Armstrong fairly won all the races he did.
These are two great examples, and ones that I had never thought to compare before. Thanks for a great read!
I just feel the Manti Te’o story should had never even come to light. I feel when he is known in the public light as a great football player at a great school, that is what he should be known for. His personal issues should never reflect on if somebody should or should not be recognized to receive an award such as the Heisman. Nobody should idolize a celebrity on a personal level, but more so use them solely for inspiration to become a better football player. That is why I really appreciated your comment on looking at the heroes we interact with everyday for personal growth and how to become a better person.
Your take on gullibility and sincerity is spot on. As I was reading, I kept thinking of the Bible verse Matthew 10:16 where Jesus tells His disciples to be “shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” I think this is something hard to grasp- serpents and doves seem like such opposite animals, but if these two traits can be learned, the benefit is great. Shrewd is defined as having or showing sharp powers of judgment, astute. Innocent is defined as being free from guilt or sin especially through lack of knowledge of evil. While these words do not translate exactly as gullibility and sincerity, I think the idea is similar. One should really care for people and give them the benefit of a doubt, without being taken advantage of or being naive. Sadly, not everyone can be trusted, no matter how genuine or nice they may appear. Thus, it is extremely important for one to be wise, not gullible. This is not something learned overnight, but over time.
Rebekah, I think you make an excellent point explaining the difference between blind trust and wisdom. I agree that wisdom is the answer to these difficult dilemmas we often face. Wisdom is hard to attain and the book of Proverbs outlines exactly how we can obtain it.
Who are the real heroes in our society today? A rare, fragile, and much sought after virtue is trust. This belief or faith in the goodness of others and of a higher being allows individuals to live their daily lives in a consistent and productive manner. The true heroes, as Dr. Shaub pointed out, are the ordinary people consistently doing their day to day activities in an extraordinary way. They are the foundation of our communities exhibiting trust, sincerity, and a good work ethic which propels our generation forward. Unlike Lance Armstrong or Manti Te’o, these individuals do not need or want the spotlight. The satisfaction of knowing that they represent a live well-lived is enough, and in this situation, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.
I enjoyed the last few paragraphs of your blog in particular. You mention we love liars because they flatter us. I can see how this relates to client/auditor relationships. Many of us are more inclined to trust others rather than question them. It’s easy for the client to lie to the auditor and flatter them by telling them what they want to hear. If these two parties have a close relationship, the auditors are even more likely to fall victim to gullibility. There is a fine line between gullibility and sincerity, and it’s our duty to stay closer to the sincerity side.
You make a great point in your final paragraph when discussing heroes. Isn’t it funny how as a society we enjoy hearing about the scandals, frauds, and the crazy stories people make up to get attention? It’s certainly true though. However, we should make a point to recognize the real heroes who surround us in our daily lives and let them know we appreciate them.
I agree completely with your comments towards Lance Armstrong. I feel that he was a cold, calculating individual that would sue others in order to retain his image. He destroyed people’s lives who tried to tell the truth about his doping.
However, I feel that Manti Teo was not honest. He got caught up in a lie. He had never met his ‘girlfriend’ yet he paraded around the media stating that he had visited her multiple times. I feel that his lie snowballed on him and that he was not big enough to come out with the truth because he was in it for the media hype. Sincerity does not define Teo in my mind. I feel that he is like everyone else out there caught in a lie. He only tells the truth when others start to dig. We were all just too gullible to start the digging. Hopefully we can all take a step back and realize that just because someone is a superior athlete does not mean they should be idolized and worshipped.
I completely agree with this post. I believe that it pertains to a lot that we have been talking about in class for the past two weeks. I’ve mentioned this before at one of the coffees, but I believe that it is easy for interns or staff members of an accounting firm to become really gullible in a lot of situations they are put in. Since we have not had enough experience to understand all the ins and outs of the profession and clients we were assigned to, it was easy for us to just follow directions from our seniors without knowing if that was the correct thing or not to do. I believe this is where the scandals like Enron and Dynegy stem from. The lower level staff didn’t know and didn’t understand the accounting procedures and/or transactions that were being used for these two companies. Therefore, they become gullible in a sense that they will believe whatever their seniors, managers, etc. will say and explain to them. I also believe the issue of authority has a factor in gullibility. Since, as a staff, a person may have four or five people above him/her in the line of team members, he/she feels obligated to follow the orders given to them by their authoritative leaders. However, this isn’t always the case. Whenever someone gets a feeling in their gut that something may be wrong, it is important to follow through with what you believe. Don’t fall into being gullible and following what others are doing just because they’re doing it. Do what feels right.
I completely agree with you. I’ve always had a tendency to be gullible, especially when I’m dealing with people I’ve just met. On my internship, I openly listened to my senior and manager, and I sometimes felt like was blindly following their instructions. Without having much experience with auditing, I had to put my trust in their experience and knowledge. How else was I supposed to learn? However, even though it was a great learning experience, it was also a very dangerous place to be. Because I was so naïve and uninformed, they could have easily fooled me and led me down a destructive path.
Trusting people oftentimes can create positive experiences and lasting relationships, but sometimes people can be manipulative and misguiding. This is why it’s important for us to follow our gut, especially when dealing with people in the business world. As auditors, we should always have a sense of professional skepticism when dealing with the client. If we trust them too openly at first, they can easily take advantage of our gullibility. As important as it may be to trust others, we should always be a little skeptical when dealing with these people in a professional sense.
Great read, Dr. Shaub.
I’d like to add that I think you hit the Lance Armstrong nail right on the head. He is extremely selfish, insincere, and a calculator by definition. It is truly sad to see him and his life’s work destroyed so swiftly.
Te’o, on the other hand, not so much. I know because he goes to a Catholic university, who happened to finally be relevant in college football again and where good deeds and acts never go unnoticed, that he pretty much has the media (and God) on his side. So, of course, he is going to come off as sincere and make the public gullible to his actions. There is no way that Te’o did not know about the situation the entire time. All this isn’t just coincidence. You don’t just publicly profess your love for someone you’ve never met, or lied about meeting, and you don’t bring your parents, who said they’d spoken to her by phone, etc., into your web of lies.
I respect his ability as a football player, but what he did was childish and immature and reflects poorly on a university that is supposed to be the gold standard. I firmly believe he did it for style points. He knows the Notre Dame faithful, and both their accepting and forgiving ways, and played to their emotions, making him insincere and them the gullible ones.
I consider myself to be the type of person who truly wants to see the best in everyone. However, I am careful not to become gullible or ignorant to reality. We have to take everything in life with at least a hint of skepticism, if we do not, we will end up disappointed and broken-hearted. Yes, it is nice to have a famous person as a hero, but unfortunately there are usually a lot of not-so hero-like attributes that go unnoticed for quite awhile. The best heroes are the people you know, the ones who raised you in a way that made you the person that you are today. We should take this as a reminder that possibly even now, we are being watched. You could be someone’s hero, are you living your life in such a way that there is nothing to be uncovered that would make people question why they believed in you?
The first sentence in the last paragraph stuck out to me, “Be sincere, but don’t be gullible.” I think this is an important lesson to remember no matter who you deal with in your life. We want to be kind to people we meet and see the best in them, but sometimes we miss people’s true motives because we are blinded by their positive qualities. I try to be as sincere as possible, but inevitably I become gullible because I do not like to think about the negative impact someone could have on my life. Like many people have stated above, it is healthy to have a little bit of skepticism when interacting with others so you can be sincere and smart about the relationships you make.
It shocked a lot of people to hear both tragic stories and in some ways I believe your observations are correct. What I believe was left out in Manti Teo’s case was the fact that, despite having an unreal person visit you and come to a Stanford game, these things were clearly stated as real events by him.
Even after the story broke, he stuck by his previous lies. In addition, many of his teammates claimed that he told them the same stories time after time. This makes me agree that this goes beyond gullibility, but does not convince me that he is a sincere guy.
I understand that someone can care for someone they have never met, even fall in love with them, especially with the copious amount of ways to contact/ meet people today. What this sounds like to me though, and this is just my opinion, was that he did sincerely care for this fictitious girl that he never met. He was given a hard time about the fact that they met over the internet, so he created lies about how they had met many times. Then when he found out that it was all a scam and he tried to save face by saying that she died. The problem with this is the fact that he then used this lie and tragic story of a young love broken by the claws of leukemia to fake “motivate” him throughout the season.
In my opinion, he was gullible for sure, but in no way showed that he was sincere about misleading family and friends as well as the thousands of fans that got behind him and his tragic story.
“But there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion.”
Just like many others who have already commented, the above quote from this post really resonated with me. I’m going to speak more toward gullibility and sincerity in personal life rather than toward business, because that’s how this post affected me most. (as in, I’m not speaking against professional skepticism)
I consider myself to be a self-proclaimed “realist”. That is, I’m usually not overtly optimistic, but I also wouldn’t consider myself a pessimist. In fact, my “realism” has gotten me accused of to being “too skeptical” about friends and promises given. It’s a trait of mine I’ve actually been working on. In my reality, it’s far easier to be suspicious. And sometimes that hurts those closest to me. How can we ever really build meaningful relationships without trust? Is hedging yourself against insincerity by living a life full of suspicion and doubt really worth it? I agree so much with the statement quoted above–but I’d like to take the negative connotation out of it. It IS preferable to live a life of trust–to live with trust, and with forgiveness if that trust is broken.
I remember before the heisman ceremony when a Notre Dame mother said that Manti was sure to win because of his story and now you can think back to how many people were affected by this unfortunate event. I think it is interesting to see the correlation between gullibility and trust. People heard of his story and elevated him to the level of winning a trophy awarded for skills on the football field. And when the story came out I bet everyone was feeling shy in their ability to trust that people are inherently good. I feel the same way with Armstrong, growing up as a sister to a cyclist. All of those yellow jerseys and none were won with honor. In our culture today it is common practice to place hope in those most visible, but I like that you bring it back to home. Lance may have motivated a large group of people, but can’t your family do the same in a much more personal way? This can replace gullibility with a community of trust.
Because I’m reading this blog a relatively long (in today terms) time after these events have taken place, I’m not quite as emotionally invested in these stories as I was when they first broke. When I first read about Armstrong doping, I was angry. I thought his actions were entering the “unforgivable” zone. However, on second glance, I pause. Was Livestrong, Armstrong’s cancer non-profit, just another calculation that Armstrong needed in order to convince us that he was clean? Or was it honestly the result of his own life or death experience with cancer? On second thought, I don’t think it matters. The deceit Armstrong used to build Livestrong becomes a liability after it has been exposed. I think that if Armstrong had truly been concerned with raising money for cancer research, he wouldn’t have used doping as an enabler to that end.
Manti Te’o seems sincere when he talks about how he lied because he “was scared” and “didn’t know what to do.” However, when an athlete or any student takes on a role in which they are representing their university on a nationwide scale, I believe their responsibilities increase. Since Manti Te’o was basically the face of Notre Dame for all of the 2012 football season, he should have been held to a higher standard and the arguments of “he’s just a kid” may not cut it. I do sympathize with him as he was obviously part of a “catfish” scheme, but I don’t agree with him lying about what happened.
Reading this blog, the thought struck me of how differently the Te’o situation would have been handled if Te’o would have been a “winner” to the extent Armstrong was. Had Te’o won the Heisman for instance, how many of those votes would have been because of his heartfelt story of his girlfriend’s passing? Would the reaction to the story breaking been anger in the same way so many felt about Armstrong? Instead most people felt something between sympathy and confusion in regards to the Te’o situation, because really, he’s just another football player. What would have happened if this story broke late Thursday night, after Te’o secured himself a first round draft pick? I don’t think the owners of whatever unlucky team drafts Te’o would be too thrilled with all the extra drama now accompanying their top pick.
I guess then I disagree with you suggestion that Te’o was sincere. Because, we really don’t know how Te’o would have reacted, or how long he would have continued to live a lie, had the story of his fake girlfriend not been reported. Would he have gone on to live this lie, most likely gaining from it, for as long as Armstrong did? Would he have admitted it himself after a great season in the NFL, or only after an under performing one? We don’t really know, but the fact that Te’o did not come clean after he found out about the con, only after the media did, makes me believe he would have taken this lie to the grave had he been able.
I was definitely someone who fell for the Armstrong lie. I held on to the belief that people were hounding him too much because they wanted to see the top guy fall. But now that it has all come out in the open I feel betrayed. Its sad because now all we can do is wonder who would have won all of those years, and imagine how everyone who came in second to him is feeling? I I agree with you that he will find a way to remain rich through other alternatives, but all i know is that whoever trusts him next should watch their back.
I agree that you should be sincere but not gullible. I honestly feel sorry for Manti because he wanted someone to call his own but it turned out to be all a lie. He did nothing wrong until he realized what was happening and then the lies started. It made it even harder that he was publicly well known and I am sure he felt very embarrassed, but I am sure he definitely learned his lesson.
Lance Armstrong used the people that were gullible to his advantage and he is still doing that now. With his apology I am sure people believed every word he said, but I hope not. What bothers me about Lance is that he was looked up to and won so many races knowing that he didn’t deserve it. He makes the heroes that you mentioned in the last paragraph look really, really good. Which in fact, they are!
I feel that in the case of Manti Teo, he wanted to believe so bad that his girlfriend was real, that he tricked himself into believing that she was real. I think this was so important to his life, that he just refused to believe that she wasn’t real. Everything that he has said makes it seem that he is being entirely truthful, but it is just hard to know for certain, since he was probably very concerned about his public image. He knows that he has a career ahead of him in the NFL, and may not want to risk his reputation. From what I have heard, many scouts and draft analysts have mentioned that they think that his draft stock has fallen, because they are not sure that someone so gullible could be a leader of a team.
Like most other people commenting, I definitely agree with the description of Lance Armstrong as being a “calculator”. He is a selfish, greedy individual whose admission to using performance enhancing drugs only affirmed what most people had already known to be true. He cashed in on his lies and only chose to come clean once he was incredibly filthy rich.
Although I agree with your statement that Manti Te’o was gulled in to believing his alleged girlfriend was real, I don’t believe his situation can be blamed as an honest mistake. I think Te’o was definitely honest and sincere in the beginning… until he personally discovered the truth. Several situations have shown how he stretched the truth, alluding to meetings with this alleged girlfriend, and he failed to come forward with the truth. I think much worse damage would have been done if he had exposed the truth when he personally discovered it. However, Te’o made his own calculation when he decided to stretch the truth for much longer after it was discovered. In my opinion, Te’o was an honest person who got caught up in an elaborate lie.
I think it is safe to save that both Te’o and Lance Armstrong have been catfished. The term has been popularized by an MTV show with the same the name used to identify people who pretend to be something they are not to gain something they want (usually a person who fakes a Facebook profile to start a relationship with another person). Here we have two sides of the catfish situation. Te’o was catfished by believing he was in a relationship with a fake girl. On the other hand, Armstrong was the catfish having virtually everyone believe that he was not doing drugs when in fact he was. The message is the same; everyone is susceptible to gullibility, or being catfished. The point you made that “we love liars” was strong and I was actually taken back by it at first. I think I was stuck on the word love because I get the feeling you said it with some exaggeration (like “we loveeee” liars). But when I thought about it more it’s true. Unfortunately our “loveee” for fantasy is what will allow us to be gullible all over again.
It’s interesting to think that before these stories were told that they were thought to be the truth. It wasn’t until the real truth came out that we figured out the we have been gullible. So I wonder, what things are we being fooled by right now because we haven’t heard the real truth yet?
I am one of the most gullible people that I know because I always want to find the good in people. In my job I feel like I have the ability to be professionally skeptical, but in my personal life I will trust most people. I feel like this post was calling out my name.
How do we keep from doing this over and over again you may ask? I believe that it is because we want to believe in the good of humanity. Even after the Boston bombings and the World Trade Centers I still believe in the good in humanity. I would rather be duped and taken advantage of 100 times then live life always expecting the worst in people. I am not a calculator like Lance and I will probably never get rich off the lies that I tell (because I am a horrible liar), but I hope that I will be a good person. I am content with having a simple life and trusting the people that I bring into that life. When humanity stops trusting each other, that is when I will start to loose faith.
I agree with you Elyse, I am content with a simple life and want to be able to trust those I surround myself with. Sadly, there is no way to keep events like these from happening in the future unless we are suspicious of everything and everyone 100% of the time. But that seems like a sad way to live.
In the long run, I think the majority of the people we trust in our lives will follow through to be the people we know them to be.
However, I might just be gullible.
I remember being at work when the Te’o story broke and the whole audit room quickly rushing to the TVs on the trading floor in disbelief!
I definitely sympathize with Te’o in that, if I’m remembering correctly, he found out about the hoax right around Heisman time and I’m sure he wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. I bet he felt incredibly embarrassed and didn’t want his gullibility to overshadow his accomplishments on the football field.
While most of us are probably not in Internet relationships with people we haven’t met, we are far too trusting as a society. After studying the Madoff Ponzi scheme, I was surprised that even well-educated, powerful people fell for his scam. It is important to keep an element of skepticism in all interactions because while we want to believe that people are inherently good, until they earn that trust from us we can never be too careful.
It’ll be interesting to see when Te’o is chosen in the draft this weekend!
In both the Armstrong case and Teo case, I believe that we, the sports fan, were taken advantage of because we are gullible. We felt sorry for Lance when he was diagnosed with cancer, we felt extremely proud when he beat the cancer and we were derailed when news of him cheating broke out. This rollercoaster of emotions was due to our gullibility as sports fans. Not once did we question how someone with his health issues could win the Tour de France. We didn’t question this because we are naïve and gullible. When news broke of Manti Teo’s girlfriend being a Hoax, I almost burst out laughing at how fans and the social media still believed that he was completely naïve to the actual situation. I laughed, not at the situation, but at the gullibility of us fans and the media. We want these “heroes” that we have placed on a pedestal to be some great being that we choose to be naïve to what is right in front of us. Once we stop being so gullible, we will see less and less people like Lance and Manti.
This post has made me develop a greater respect for my grandfather. He is an extremely anointed pastor; he can make you laugh or make you cry during his sermons, but there is a difference in his life compared to the average mega-church pastor. He cares. He genuinely cares. He could easily be the pastor of a huge church in a big city, but he chose to be faithful in what he felt called to do: start a small church in a small town. Even though he has only had a congregation of maybe 200 people, you can ask anyone in Midland about Richard Spencer and they will tell you about some moment where he changed their life. However, his influence has spread much farther than Midland. He has somehow impacted people all around the world just by preaching behind his small pulpit in a small church in the ghetto of a small town. He may not have the perks of a mega-church pastor, but nothing could sway him to change his message.
“He is the epitome of a calculator, using others for his own gain until there is no gain to be made.”
This quote about Lance Armstrong reminds me of many of the stories that we have covered in our class. People like Bernie Madoff, Richard Scrushy, and Helen Sharkey’s supervisor all seem to strategize their exact methods for accumulating an abundance of money until they are caught. An even stronger connection can be drawn between Lance Armstrong and the founder of New Era, John Bennett. They both used the charity aspect to lure people into trusting them. Obviously their tactics lasted for quite some time and were successful methods in gaining the trust of many of those in the public. This is truly disheartening and forces people to loose trust in good causes. However, maybe this loss of trust will lead us to be more careful and less gullible in the future.
“Be sincere, but don’t be gullible.” I love this. I think a lot of us have a tendency to always want to believe the best in everyone we meet. However, I think we all would benefit from implementing a little “professional skepticism” into everyday life. While I believe everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt to some degree, it is unreasonable, and almost dangerous, to not exercise at least some level of caution in our personal and professional lives. Easier said than done, but definitely something to be aware of and to think about.
Very well said Sarah. I agree, we have to find that happy medium in our lives between trust and skepticism. As auditors, we need to be careful in our personal lives. I found that after my internship, I may have been applying a little less trust to those in personal life and my family would joke that I was in “work mode”. This is something we need to be aware of and maintain a healthy balance.
I completely agree with the statement, “in our culture, we love liars.” People hear what they want to believe is true despite probably cause not to. In the case of Lance Armstrong, people stood behind him because he was representing America and winning all in addition to battling cancer. His story inspired many and enable his fans to brush early rumors aside.
Today’s society tends to get carried away by what other’s assume to be true. In other words, a large group of people can turn a fictional story into a collective fact. It is really hard to find someone to go against what is collectively accepted. The impact of social networks and the media has intensified this problem. We hardly question this extraordinary stories that become a public sensation. Manti Te’o got carried away by this phenomenon. His mistake was the fact that he went along with the story and never revealed the truth. Maybe the fantasy and the public support gave him extra motivation in what it became one of the most significant year of his life. He used the situation to his advantage. I know the goal of this blog is not for me or anyone to judge this individuals. We need to take away the valuable lesson that this stories teach us. We cannot go through our life blaming others for our mistakes. We have to take responsibilities for our actions. I know sometimes it can get difficult to differentiate between what is fact or fiction. Our job is to protect ourselves and our loved ones from other people’s ago. This does not mean that we cannot trust anyone. It simply means that we always have to look into the facts ourselves and use good judgment before reaching a conclusion about a person or situation.
This situation hit the news hard and especially over the internet. I believe the situation was made public because Te’o was up for the heisman. I feel like things happen everyday to normal people, but it just does not get publicized because of their status.
I agree with what was said regarding Lance Armstrong. He certainly made his calculations and determined that it was in his best interest to cheat. With the Te’o situation, I find it hard to believe everything he said to the media and that he had no idea what was going on.
“And, in our culture, we love liars. We love them because we want to think the best about people, but we also love them because they flatter us, and because we prefer fantasy to reality.” I completely agree with this statement. In one my WERS I wrote about how gullibility and ignorance in a person can make them vulnerable in so many circumstances. Ignorance can be a horrible weakness because when it finally gets you you wouldn’t have seen it coming. It is important to educate ourselves in every situation to avoid vulnerability. You should also think the best of people but also be aware of what they are capable of doing. I think this relates to both Manti Teo and Lance Armstrong.
I believe there has to be a balance for everything and that balance lies in wisdom. Wisdom tells us when to trust and when to verify. Unfortunately, no matter how skeptical a person is, I believe there will always be one that can manipulate that person due to exceptional characteristics like charisma, leadership, or knowledge. (Think about presidents/rulers, and others like Armstrong who have been models for some.) It is important for us to first understand ourselves completely, our strengths and weaknesses, so that one will not come and flatter us into a fantasy.
In addition, is important to be careful with those close to us, because they know how we think and they can manipulate us. That is why I agree with the following statement: if you know someone that is sincere with you, who can speak the truth directly to you, then treasure that person, because that person loves you and loves truth.
“Gullibility goes hand in hand with sincerity”. I would have never made that connection, but it is a very interesting one to think about. I know I definitely fall into the category of being gullible at times because I like to trust all individuals. I think that because I am a trustworthy person, others are as well. Of course this is not the case, but it is something that I struggle with very often. The last paragraph of this blog was what I enjoyed the most. The talk show hosts or the famous football players won’t be the ones to impact our lives and be our heroes. It is the individuals that we encounter on a daily basis that will shape us, and inspire us to strive to be the best we can.
“How do we keep from [falling for lies] over and over again?” I think you are right when you say the answer is “sincerity” without gullibility. This answer reminds me of the book that I chose to read for our class, which had a chapter about the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prior to reading it, I hadn’t given much thought to what prudence really looked like, but the idea of being shrewd, cautious, thoughtful, and practical definitely seems necessary to overcoming gullibility. We must be shrewd enough to understand the sources of our information, cautious enough to not place our utmost trust in one human person, thoughtful with how we encounter others, and practical to not just blindly believe what we hear.
I think you are right, Dr. Shaub. Everyone gets caught up in fantasy and celebrity status. We could use a good dose of reality. I think what makes the Lance Armstrong case even worse is everything that follows, including the Opera interview. It’s adding drama and people love drama. Which, in turn, make people even more gullible. I think you can be a sincere and meaningful and honest person without believing everything you hear on the news and on television. We see on t.v. what producers want us to see. Some of the truest heroes do the simplest work, work that may not get them on television or in the news. Most may never know what these heroes do for others, but that is what makes it great. It matters most to the person it affected, and that is all that counts. Humble acts seem to have the truest intentions: “do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.”
I agree with you, Katie. I think social media is a great example of something many people fall gullible too. Stories are always exaggerated and may usually be far from the truth. I know I always am skeptical of what I read in gossip magazines or hear on the news, because we may never know the actual truth, and stories change with time.
I agree that everybody is at risk of being too gullible, especially when you believe that the other person is sincere. This reminds me of the 4 obligations of an auditor that Dr. Shaub covered in class, specifically the obligation of confrontation. From multiple speakers and readings in class, it just seems like the easiest thing to do is to be gullible, believe what you’re told, and not rock the boat. It’s just easier to accept what we were led to believe in the Te’o and Armstrong cases. Similarly, it’s just easier to accept what management tells us in an audit. To confront whatever we’re told, takes more effort on our part, and may make things less attractive. With Te’o and Armstong, that would be ruining the inspiring stories that we were captivated by. In the case of auditing, it would be not wanting to seem distrusting by the client and ruining the possibility of a clean, simple audit. We have to be constantly conscious of employing professional skepticism and be careful of being too gullible.
I think this post can be looked at in a different light as well. Someone recently told me to look at Matthew 10:16 in regards to ethics. “I am sending you out as a sheep among wolves. Be as shrewd as a serpent AND as innocent as a dove.”
I think this verse can be related to not only ethics but also gullibility. It is our duty as accountants, as well as in life, to realize that the world is not always full of ethical people; however it means we should act in accordance with ethics in our everyday affairs. If we do this we can sleep at night knowing we are blameless. But it ALSO means that we should never let anyone take advantage of us either.
Gullibility can be tough, especially for compassionate people who believe in the good of man. It is important throughout our life for us to be trusting and to believe others on their word, but at the same time we need to make sure we do not let our compassion blind us from the real truth.
This post seems to have even more relevance now that the NFL draft is behind us. Te’o was once considered a Heisman trophy candidate and a potential top 10 draft pick. After his scandal (whether he knew about the hoax or was in on it to generate hype), he fell all the way to the second round. Te’o is a great player (although extremely overrated in my opinion), but has endured on-field consequences for his actions off the field. Maybe teams are starting to place a little more emphasis on character, and not just athletic skill set?
“But there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion.” I think that this is true. Sometimes I would rather just believe people, simply because I don’t see the point in lying about certain things. (And no, I am not saying that I have never lied.) I think that how much you trust a person determines how gullible you will allow yourself to be with what they say. If I know someone always exaggerates stories, I take what they have to say for what it is, but I would not depend on anything without looking into it. However, if someone has proven to be trustworthy, I will believe most things they say without a second thought. I think that it is a chance you have to take, and sometimes it leads to you getting hurt.
Very insightful read.
I do believe Te’o and Armstrong go hand in hand, especially after both situations exposed huge lies. In the Texas A&M bubble we live in, most people make Te’o out to be a huge fraud who had the intentions of misleading the public for matters of sympathy. I thought your perspective was much less biased, and did a good job of showing both the innocent and guilty side of Te’o.
Armstrong was an entirely different matter. There is absolutely no shred of credibility left of that man’s character. He has successfully disintegrated any hope of ever being considered a decent or respectable person. My only question is how does a person who has lied so much rationalize their actions for so long?
I agree with the statement “we want to believe the unbelievable.” The simple reason behind that being it is just so much easier. We bow down to the people who fulfill this unreality, because we begin to associate them with a life of simplicity. Trying to refrain from being gullible is much harder than any of us anticipate. As you said, the protection from being gullible is that these people are content. They have a confidence that isn’t based on fickle things. This is the confidence I desire to have; I want to avoid the “hope for completion in something that was never designed to complete us.” I hope this confidence will keep me from becoming gullible and will help me to remain sincere.
I think you have a very interesting take on this, Dr. Shaub. I completely agree with what you have to say about both Manti T’eo and Lance Armstrong. I watched the stories unfold as I was on my internship, and I had mixed feelings towards both. As for T’eo, I think the media totally blew the event out of proportion. It was frustrating for me to see people rip someone to pieces so easily and quickly. It just goes to show that it takes a lot to get the general public to trust you as a public figure, but it takes only one story, one quick story, for them to turn on you completely. I believe T’eo is a good guy, but just didn’t calculate the consequences of his actions correctly. As you say Dr. Shaub, we are generally terrible calculators.
As for Lance Armstrong, I completely agree with you on the wage garnishment. He does not deserve the money that comes from his “successes”. He didn’t earn them. He also shows absolutely no sadness about any of it. He had an entire country rooting for him throughout his battle with cancer, and many people, both young and old, looked up to him as a role model. How can someone manipulate that power so easily? I just don’t get it.
Lastly, I loved your last paragraph about the heros who are sincere and not gullible. I fully believe that these people are the ones that we need to be more intentional about thanking. So often their jobs go by unnoticed, I hope I can do something to fix that.
I like your statement “a life of trust is preferable to a life of suspicion”. I know I am a big fan of “ignorance is bliss” because it seems naive people are happier than people who are in the know. But like you stated, being naive leaves you vulnerable to being taken advantage of when you are dealing with liars. I was completely caught off guard when I found out Lance Armstrong was guilty for running one of the most intricate and complex steroid rings of all time. He seemed like such a genuine person, plus he had been tested over a hundred times and passed them all to my knowledge. I realized how gullible I was after learning about who he truly was and made me realize even more than i already did that i need to be careful of trusting those that do not deserve to be trusted. When it comes to Teo’s situation, I felt bad for the guy because he did seem sincere about not knowing it was a fake girl he was talking to, but i was truly surprised at how gullible he was. I know if I were in his situation, I would have only pursued the relationship if I was able to actually meet her in person on a regular basis.
At what point does trusting turn into gullibility? At one point it was most likely logical for Teo to trust the fact that this girl existed, but at what point did he become gullible?I think that same goes for me as a sports fan. It was logical for a period of time to believe Alex Rodriguez did not do steroids, but at what point did I become gullible. Personally I would much prefer to trust someones word over always being a skeptic but it appears that that might lead to gullibility. On a personal scale, I will always prefer to trust someone just to let them know that someone does care what they have to say. Is this a fault of mine? I would hope not, and that I will be able to use discernment about the amount of information I trust.
For me I know I have a very hard time accepting that I don’t have control over everything. Last year when my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer it was really hard for me. I was really close to my grandfather and even though I have a very firm belief in God it was very hard for me to come to the conclusion that all I could do was pray and see what God had in store. It is easy to tell someone else to not lose faith, to keep praying, and that God will work things out in the end. When you are in the situation though, it is so very hard to do these things. I started to almost hate when people would tell me to just keep praying. I wanted to do more than that. I felt so helpless. I felt like I was letting my grandfather down. Eventually I came to realize that I was letting my feelings of helplessness take control of myself. There were times that I would not want to go see my grandfather because I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me for not being able to do more to help him. Looking back at it I wish that I had not let my helplessness take control of me. If I had just given the control to God I could have felt more at peace with the situation. I could have spent more time with my grandfather that I will never get back.
I agree with your statement that” we love liars, we love them because we want to think the best of people, but we also love them because they flatter us.” ” We want to believe the unbelievable.”That’s why through the history ordinary people were always too easily swayed by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians. And some other unethical people, trying to spread rumors that bring s negative society result like social panic to realize self-fulfillment.
Wise men, however, do not readily believe every talebearer or rhetoric, because they know that human frailty is prone to evil and is likely to appear in speech. We should realize that all the blandishments, flattery or rumors will disappear immediately in the river of time. We can just laugh it off and give it time.
I also agree with your statement that we “love liars.” We live in a culture where people love to see and hear what they want to see and hear, rather than what the truth may be. If a lie is something that’s popular, I think most people would embrace that. I also think we live in a culture that easily forgives, which is why I think the Lance Armstrong thing will blow away in no more than 5 years. People tend to forget about these things.
Regarding the gullibility issue of Manti Te’o, I think there’s a lot more to the story than we see. I have heard of his teammates saying that he knew the girl did not exist way before the public did, and he kept this story going in the media to play up his Heisman campaign. I think it would be pretty gullible of us to believe 100% of the Te’o story and think that he is completely sincere about the issue.
Good article and I completely agree with the message at the end.
That being said, I have to disagree with you on the Manti Te’o story. I think that he made the whole thing up and he did it shamelessly. I think Manti wanted attention and he was going to say/do anything he could to get it. Some of my friends attend Notre Dame and judging from what they have told me when they see him at party’s, he did not act like a man with a girlfriend.
As for Lance, I think his story is extremely damaging to his reputation, but I also think his story says a lot about the sport of biking. It sounds like almost every professional biker is not only doping, but also getting away with it. I think the professional cycling community needs better regulations and stiffer drug tests to ensure that their sport is clean. If believe if these regulations are not implemented soon the professional cycling community could crumble.
What I find most difficult about not being gullible is feeling like I am being cynical about humanity. I would like to be a positive person and believe in people, but that can lead to us being taken advantage of.
I believe that we are born gullible and it is through life’s experiences that we develop suspicion. Too many times though our experiences cause us to suspect future betrayals and tempt us to look for lies elsewhere—in other family members, friends, or coworkers. Yet this distrust is often misplaced. This constant suspicion then limits the strength and the number of our social interactions. That is why it’s important to not be too gullible or too suspicious. We need to find a middle ground. We need to be guided rather than hindered by our past experiences as we develop new relationships based on mutual trust.
Gullibility is something that can be very dangerous at times. I will be going into public accounting in a year and I am afraid I may be faced with situations that allow me to be gullible. This scares me and I know that when these situations come I should stick to my foundation values to guide me. However, this sort of gullibility is not just active in the workplace. I face this almost every weekend when I am put in tough situations. College can be somebody’s most gullible years, yet students cease to acknowledge that these decisions can affect the rest of their life. I have had many friends make a stupid decision that will haunt them for the rest of their life. They may laugh about it down the road, talking about the college years. However, I believe deep down inside the situation could have been avoided. When we are faced in these situations we need to stick to our foundation and always go with your gut feeling. The trick to making the right choice is to avoid putting yourself in the situation to begin with. Gullibility is something that needs to be taken seriously, and remember one bad decision could send you on a path for destruction.
I agree that we need to “be sincere, and not gullible.” I think we are all prone to being gullible at times. Like someone posted earlier, we need to utilize some sort of professional skepticism in our own lives. I believe that we should be somewhat skeptical of the stories we read on a daily basis, as well as the people that we meet. It may be difficult at times, but we should remind ourselves that we should “be sincere, and not gullible.”
I definitely agree that we as a society “love liars” in that virtually every story in which a celebrity is caught in a lie, absolutely blows up. One reason I think this happens is because it makes the common man/woman feel better about themselves in that these celebrities, which are commonly portrayed in an almost god-like way, demonstrate human flaws which in turn boost our self-esteem.
The topic of sincerity is touchy with me personally because I tend to be very over-analytical and constantly worry that my genuinely nice nature will be misinterpreted by a cynic that has been fooled before, as me sucking up to gain future favors.
This is well said. I can completely agree with the statement of “there will always be those who are gullible, because a life of trust is preferable to a life of constant suspicion.” It is only natural for us, as humans, to look for the best in someone and believe them until they prove us wrong. It is a flaw in humans that can only which can be prevented by providing an amount of skepticism. Everyone has fallen guilible to someone or some statement at least one point in time. It is important for us, as humans, to “be sincere, but not guilible.”
This relates directly to the life of bing an auditor. As an auditor, it is requested by our profession to provide a level of skepticism. This, in turn, protects us from falling guilible to the sincere professional that is trying to convince you to follow their way.
While I would like to believe that Manti Te’o was an innocent victim of “catfishing”(and incredibly gullible), I remain skeptical of his story. I do believe that Te’o sincerely thought he was having a relationship with Kekua, but why mention losing his girlfriend to cancer in his Heisman Trophy presentation when he got a call on December 6th (2 days before the Heisman Trophy Presentation) saying that she was alive? Clearly he knew something was amiss. This situation just reinforces a common principle we often ignore-“trusting our gut”. Don’t get me wrong, I do have compassion for Te’o and his story, but I can’t help but question whether he manipulated the truth for his own personal gain.
The stories of both Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong emphasize the importance of honesty. I understand that we are human, we will slip. But one important thing we often don’t realize is that the earlier you fess up, the better. How one chooses to respond to the mistakes they’ve made says a lot about their character. And Lance Armstrong unfortunately demonstrates this in a negative light. He adamantly denied doping allegations for over a decade, which included calling other cyclists liars and ruining their reputations in the process. He sacrificed his integrity and discredited all of his life accomplishments as a result. As someone who used to sincerely admire Lance Armstrong, I wonder how different things might be if he had just fessed up earlier.
After reading this blog, I can’t help but agree that so many people are susceptible to being gullible because as you mentioned we love liars. There is usually always something so charismatic about liars that draws us into doing what they want. I think this emphasizes the importance of always having a healthy skepticism and not believing everything at face value. As auditors, it is our duty to have professional skepticism and not believe everything that our clients are telling us in order to ensure that the audit is accurately depicted and shareholders are being given the proper information to make informed decisions.
With a few of the presentation this week mentioning Lance Armstrong cheating, I couldn’t help but to be drawn in by your thoughts in this blog. Your comments about Lance being a “master calculator” and his ability to continue to generate money from sources other than cycling made me form a hypothesis myself. Though it may be a little farfetched, I started to wonder if Lance calculated all the revenues he generated over his 7-year cheating period and hoped that all the philanthropies he created and contributed to would over shadow the wrong he had done. I feel as though he tried to portray this act utilitarian viewpoint, that even though he is doing something illegal it was to help a much larger cause. I think maybe the reason I am giving him the benefit of the doubt in a way is because this would be how I would rationalize something of this nature if I was in his shoes. But I am not athletic enough to be in that type of situation so I should be okay.
I definitely agree with many of the points you made in this article. However, I still remain skeptical of Manti Te’o’s gullibility and sincerity. There are still questions that remain unanswered to me. Maybe he was gullible and deceived at one point, but I do feel that he was aware of this hoax long before he came out to the public. Many students have mentioned the gullibility of the public. While I agree, I think it all starts with the gullibility in the media. The media will latch on to a story and romanticize it to the point where there are more emotional pieces to the story than factual.
When you compare Te’o with Armstrong, particularly in their interviews, Te’o is a more likeable character due to his apparent sincerity. However, if he had any hand in the lies told to the public, it was done so purely out of self interest. I strongly believe that without his story he would not have been a Heisman candidate, or at least not a front runner. So is he truly sincere, or is he also a “master calculator”? Armstrong, while he cheated and lied for personal gain, he also did great things with it and has raised millions of dollars for cancer research. I still support that part of his career. The thing that irks me the most about his scandal is the fact that he repeatedly bashed and threw the people closest to him under the bus to protect his own image. He ruined some of his “friends'” lives and I that is what separates him from the rest of the bikers who used the same methods of cheating. I think that Armstrong doesn’t believe he has done anything wrong, which renders his apologies meaningless.
As did many of the other students, I agree with a lot of what this article had to say. We believe stories about “famous” athletes because we want them to be true. We put their lives on a pedistal and come to think they are more than human. At the end of the day, these athletes aren’t that different than any one of us. Big time athletes make mistakes and fall into some of the same traps as we in the general public do. I think Carly Hoeler made a great point in her post by saying that “it all starts with the gullibility in the media”. If the information we are receiving is tainted by the media then we the public will be more inclined to believe what we hear. Ultimately we have to rely on the information reported by others if we weren’t there.
I have followed along with the Te’o story on ESPN and it has been interesting to see how Manti has responded to the incident. It appears that he has learned something from this whole “fake girlfriend” debacle and may be a little more skeptical in the future.
Lance Armstrong, once one of my favorite atheletes, seems to be trying to repair an image rather than show real remorse for what he has done.
I agree in thinking that Manti Te’o truly got duped. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such a bizarre story.
Lance Armstrong’s fall from glory was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. Being from Austin, I saw this story literally hit home. The whole city loves (loved?) him and learning that he was a fraud the entire time makes any Austinite sick. Yes you can say that Armstrong raised the millions for cancer patients, and I commend him for his charitable works. And yes you can say that every other cyclist at that time cheated as well. That doesn’t necessarily justify the action though. Many people use that argument when examining the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro.
To me these athletes fall into their own category, different from the likes of Michael Vick and Tiger Woods. Vick and Woods made mistakes in their personal lives. I can live with that because I make mistakes in my personal life as well, and I am in no place to judge anyone else for their actions. I believe everyone deserves forgiveness. Tiger seemed truly sorry for what he did and Vick has gotten his life together for the most part. The athletes I have an issue with are those who defraud the fans and anyone involved with their sport. I don’t quite consider Barry Bonds the home run king. Lance Armstrong didn’t truly win those tours cleanly. Athletes like that have cheated the fans and have compromised the integrity of their respective sports. Tiger and Vick at least kept their mistakes off the field of play, and didn’t use their mistakes to get ahead in their craft.
I thought it was interesting how the blog pointed out that people can be gullible in two ways. In the first way, people can be sincerely gullible because they prefer to trust others as being honest. In the second way, people can be insincerely gullible because they idolize a life of fantasy. In both instances, being gullible is mentioned as a choice. The first choice would probably allow an individual to live a less worrisome life. However, it is the second choice that can impact one’s acceptance of what is ethical and unethical. As people want to identify more with their favorite celebrities, the more open they are to their idols’ unethical behavior. This leaves individuals to struggle between ethical standards that were set by their parents and teachers and unethical standards being paraded by their celebrity idols. This separation is reflected from generation to generation. As time passes, cultures tend to become more lenient with their standards of ethics. An example of this is firing someone because they are approaching the retirement age or exceed a department’s new wage cap, but stating on paper that it was due to performance. Unfortunately, this practice has become more common and acceptable in the recent decades.
It is the existence of individuals like Lance Armstrong, who seem to be so comfortable not only telling, but living a lie, that make me feel apprehensive about the world we live in. I am by nature a trusting individual. I do not consider myself gullible but I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust that in most situations, people’s intentions are good. But in today’s world, I’ve been given countless examples that prove this just isn’t a reality anymore. It feels like once you graduate and move on into your professional career, you must do everything in your best interest and disregard the interests of everybody else. I hate this notion because I am by nature interested in serving the needs of others and keeping their best interests in mind as well. I once thought this might not be possible in the business world, but thanks to guidance received in Shaub’s ethics class, I feel equipped to continue being the person I want to be despite the pressures of the real world.
I actually analyzed an article that spoke about these two athletes during one of my weekly ethics readings. My takeaway from that article was very similar to what you seemed to derive from their stories. It seems there are people in this world who will prey on others’ emotions in order to gain their trust or support. Although these two incidents had to do with the sporting world, situations like these can arise in the business world as well. A deceptive professional can use the emotions of clients or anybody who’s support is necessary in order to get their way. This is where another version of professional skepticism can come into play. It is important to me to not let my emotions take complete control over my decision-making process in the hopes that I will not make the wrong decision based purely on emotion.
The fall of Lance Armstrong was big to many just because of what he overcame, but sometimes things really are too good to be true.
I believe Te’o’s situation is different altogether. He never really cheated, he was just caught in a scandal. Many fans believed that it was all just a publicity stunt by Te’o and his family to give him that “feel good” story for his Heisman campaign, but no proof of this exists. Very bizarre story.