If you’re a child of the digital era, there’s a 99% chance that you’ve committed some type of fabrication growing up.
Perhaps it was in the form of doctoring that good ‘ol progress report so that your mom didn’t wreak bloody hell on you for a midterm grade that you knew was going to come up anyway (why get her blood pressure up, right?). Damn those quizzes.
Maybe it was copy-pasting a little bit too much from Wikipedia into that book report than any sane person would care to admit (If you change the sentence order and use a thesaurus it counts as original work, right?).
I’ve even known young boys who delete “questionable” material from the history of their family computers. “Fabrication by omission”? Hmmm..
These minor misgivings don’t make us BAD people. If you say you’ve never done anything like this in your life, you’re flat out LYING.
We commit minor mistruths everyday just to keep wheels turning smoothly. Sometimes it’s not the right time to reveal information that you know will soon change anyway. Sometimes it’s to avoid an uncomfortable conversation or altercation that would just aggravate an already tense situation.
So any of you George Washingtons left out there on a white horse claiming to be shining examples of honesty, please dismout. I’ll wait.
Now, can I be honest for a second? It’s usually the smartest people who are able to come up with the most creative solutions and work-arounds. The downside to this ability is that sometimes smart people put so much work into a “shortcut” that they could have just spent the time to do the work correctly the first place.
They spend more energy trying to be lazy than it would actually take just to DO the work.
Ever watched the movie version of a book, then poured over ALL the SparkNotes in detail just to avoid actaually reading the book in it’s entirety? Exactly.
My personal position is to advocate honesty and doing the job right the first time. It just makes life simpler. I think Lincoln said “Nothing is easier to remember than the truth.”
Still, there are times in our personal and business lives when a good piece of digital fabrication can serve us quite well and be used ethically to redirect situations with people, companies or organizations who are just being complete jackasses.
Nobody talks about this type of stuff and I don’t know why. We all do it. So I’m writing the first article in what I hope will be a series on digital work-arounds for tough situations. Leave me a comment letting me know if you like this type of stuff. (or if you hate it, that’s fine too).
Here’s a story that happend to me that emphasizes exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the primary reason I’m writing this post.
You be the judge — tell me what YOU would have done in my shoes.
The Pit Bull Fiasco
A while back when I’d launched my first freelance business as an SAT coach (I talk about that extensively in the Rich20Something book), things were going really well and I wanted to move into my dream apartment in midtown Atlanta. It was a big deal for me and I was super excited.
So I went to fill out the lease. They checked my income, my credit and everything was cool.
Except for one thing….
Back in my old place (2 apartments ago) my pit bull had…how should I say this…spread her love all over the apartment. In reality it wasn’t that bad, but the carpet had to be replaced in some areas that had been torn.
The old apartment complex that I was in never forwarded the bill to me for some reason and it ended up going on my credit as a “failure to pay” under the lease agreement. This is the same category that evictions fall under — so obviously this was a no-go for the new apartment complex in midtown.
I was pretty shocked and pissed about this. So I called the creditor that had the account. The bill was $387.
Not too bad. So I figured I could just explain the scenario to the new apartment complex, pay the outstanding balance and everything would be cool.
But as you probably know…
Some people can be completely unreasonable idiots…
I paid the bill and asked the creditor to fax the confirmation to the new apartment complex. Then I could sign the lease and move in.
They wouldn’t do it. The creditor said it was against their policy to send any outgoing faxes without a direct request from a land lord. I would just have to wait for them to send the confirmation to the new apartment complex via snail mail. In 2 weeks. I asked them if I could make the request and they could just fax it to me. I mean, it was MY bill after all. And I’d just paid it. They said “no”. What the hell.
So I went to the new complex and said “All you have to do is fax the creditor the request and they’ll send you the document stating that I’m all paid up. Then I can sign the lease.” They wouldn’t do it. The land lord said it was against their policy to request any type of document from a creditor and it had to be faxed directly to them.
So let me get this straight: the collections company that I just paid won’t confirm that I’ve paid (per their policy) and the place I want to move into won’t ask for the confirmation that I’ve paid (per their policy).
What type of fuckery is this?
If I didn’t get that document to the new complex I wouldn’t be able to sign the lease and I’d lose my dream apartment.
rock | me | hard place << get it?
I felt like it was one of those situations where the only person that cared about me….was me.
What would you do at this point?
I’d tried all the traditional “ethical” solutions.
I’d talked to both parties. I’d tried to connect them and come to a mutually beneficial, nearly painless solution.
I’d tried talking, coercing, being kind and gentle, being authoritative and firm.
These bullshit policies were literally going to stop me from getting the apartment because both sides were too bound by policy to think like humans rather than mindless robots.
I’d already told my girlfriend we’d gotten the place and dammit, I was going to make sure we got it. So I took it into my own hands. The solution was very simple.
I used what I call the Middleman Technique (more on this in a future article): I went to a FexEx Kinkos and printed up a letterhead with the logo of the landlord (grabbed it off their website), and posing as the landord, I faxed the creditor a letter formally requesting the confirmation that the debt had been paid.
The creditor faxed back within minutes.
Then, posing as the creditor, I submitted the confirmation to the new land lord.
Both parties believed that the other party had followed procedure and everything went smoothly. The entire process probably took 35 minutes. It was mind-numbingly easy and just confirms the fact that they could have done it all along, they just didn’t want to.
I signed the lease to my dream apartment the next day.
Rather than wait for either one of the two dumb ass sides to contact one another while I missed out on the apartment, I facilitated the agreement by role playing and taking destiny into my own hands.
Did I bend the rules by “impersonating” both sides in order to get the lease signed? Sure.
Was the act “unethical”? I don’t think so.
The “fine print” (you knew it was coming)…
There are many situations where morals, ethics and rules do not always intersect. Rules are often created to serve organizational, logistical purposes — not because what they enforce is “right”. They are not created with the little guy in mind. They are created to make life easier and more profitable for the rich guy.
As a little guy, I hate this.
As long as you’re not hurting, desparaging or otherwise inflicting harm on an individual — I think it’s perfectly ok to use work-arounds like the Middleman Technique.
I also think it’s ok to use them sparingly when you’re being treated aggressively or unfairly. Or when you’ve genuinely messed up and need another shot that you won’t get by just asking for one.
In the rest of this article, I’ll break down an incredibly powerful framework for creating a digital email fabrication that is deadly effective at saving your ass time and time again in multiple scenarios.
Disclaimer: I fully believe that there are times when you just need to “man” or “woman” up and accept the consequences of your actions. These work-arounds aren’t meant to be staples of your daily life and they are not encouraging deception as a lifestyle. I am not encouraging you to commit any type of crime and any crime committed in conjunction with the use of these techniques is the sole responsibility of the offending party. Use these skills with great care in a responsible, ultimately benevolent manner. Cool?
Still, I know that there are situations where being able to create well-crafted digital fabrications can be really helpful when the system is stacked against you.
I told you that I’d teach you how to become a digital bad ass, didn’t I?
Ok then. Let’s go.
Framework Number 1: The RobotLoop
Description: this framework utilizes the mailer daemon in an email client to generate a false “failure” message and make it appear as if an email has been sent and rejected…even if it hasn’t.
When it’s useful:
- When you just plain forgot to submit that assignment on time to your professor
- When your boss may need proof of an email that you didn’t get a chance to send yet
- To reframe the a situation by putting the onus of responsibility on someone else
Using the framework:
Let’s say you missed the deadline on an assignment that will cost you the grade in a class, or the promotion at work.
My thoughts are: YES, you should learn from the lesson and commit to NOT missing any more deadlines — but in the meantime, why stomach an “F” just to teach yourself?
The RobotLoop allows you to take advantage of your mail client’s robot mailer daemon to create a fabricated response that gets you off the hook.
Ever gotten a weird auto-email like the one below when you tried to shoot someone a message?
We’ve all gotten one or two of these at some point in our email lives. There are several reasons the mailer daemon can kick your email back.
- Sometimes it’s because the recipient’s inbox is full.
- Often it’s because you misspelled the recipient’s email address and there is no address with that name.
Either way, this is good for us. If you miss your deadline, but need a slight extension, wouldn’t it be good to blame the lapse on a computer problem? Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Start by creating the email that you intend to send. If it’s an assignment that requires an attachement or something besides the actual email body, make sure everything in that attached document matches the date that you need to reflect.
Don’t incriminate yourself by being sloppy! Always check the dates on the document!
Step 2: Instead of sending it to the person who you intend to receive the email, send it to a bogus email address that you know doesn’t exist so that you can get the email returned to you immediately. You can mash a bunch of buttons and add “@gmail.com” (or any carrier you want).
Something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” should work just fine.
Step 3: Wait for the kickback (it should look something like the picture above). It will usually come immediately after you press send, but sometimes it can take up to 5 minutes. This is the mailer daemon basically saying “hey dummy, this email address isn’t valid”. Great. Now we’re going to doctor this email up a wee bit.
Step 4: Press “forward” and get ready to forward this garbled error message to the intended recipient. Important: do not put their address into the “to” field until you are 100% prepared to send. It’s critical that you check all dates and line all the pieces up before pressing “send”. Don’t want to hit “send” by accident.
Step 5: Change all the dates to make the email appear “on time”. See the sequence below.
Edit # 2
Step 6: The last piece of the RobotLoop involves writing the “confused message” that indicates to your intended recipient all or some of the following basic ideas:
- Shock and surprise
- Confusion as to why it happened
- Mild fear (of repercussions)
- Intent for immediate action
The most important part is the last bullet – indicate that you were surprised and then IMMEDIATELY follow up with a phone call (if possible) to try and catch them before they even read your forwarded email. This will set the tone for you appearing to be the proactive person, alerting them to the problem before they were even aware of it. The immediate follow up will give you the opportunity to set the frame for the tardiness being system error, not a human error. Remember to show genuine surprise!
This is a model. Make yours better and more personalized:
The “confused message”
That’s it for framework # 1.
There are even more powerful frameworks and hacks to get you out of trouble – but I’m hesitant to write more. Again, my default is always honesty. But I know there are times when we all NEED these types of quick fixes, and I hate pretending like they don’t exist.
Leave me a comment. Did you like this? Would you consider using the RobotLoop?