I’ve gotten involved in a discussion over at a group about productivity in response to a question about an author’s ethics. The person asking the question was planning on getting the book, but found a review that made him raise questions. I answered with a specific example of what I found unethical in the book, and the response was over the top, leaving me rather scorched.
So my question is, does the character of authors matter?
I think it does. If an author is presenting himself as an expert on a situation, shouldn’t he be blameless? After all, would you really want to get how-to-grow-wealth advice from a book by Bernie Madoff? Sure, he made a lot of money, but look how he did it.
Same with the author in question, Tim Ferriss. Here is the passage that turned me off:
“I won by reading the rules and looking for loopholes, of which there were two:
1. Weigh ins were the day prior to the competition. Using dehydration techniques….I lost 28 pounds in 18 hours, weighed in at 165, and then hyperhydrated back to 193 pounds. It’s hard to fight someone from three weight classes above you. Poor little guys.
2. There was a technicality in the fine print: …I decided to use this
technicality as my single technique and just push people off.”
Why is this bad? When this situation happens at my daughter’s school, for instance…a child who weighs more than another child and pushes them around to get what they want…it’s called BULLYING.
Do I really want to take lock, stock and barrel advice from someone who bullies? No, not really. His credibility was shot. I read the rest of the book, reviewed it (Book Review: The 4 Hour Work Week), and thoroughly examined what he had to say. But it was all colored by that passage.
Yes, I’m interested in working less. Who isn’t? But I won’t do it by crossing the boundaries of what I consider right conduct.
So to bring this back around. Does the character of an author matter? I think it does. Credibility and respect are intangible things, and once lost, regardless of how worthy the message, the value of the message is diminished.
So I’ll pass this over to you. What do you think?