Published on: September 6, 2012
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I just want to say for the record that when I ran my first Marine Corps Marathon, in October 2001, beginning and ending in the shadow of the recently attacked Pentagon, I did it in 5 hours, 35 minutes and 29 seconds.
My second - and almost certainly last - Marine Corps Marathon, in October 2004, just days before my 50th birthday, was a marginal improvement - I did it in 5 hours, 29 minutes and three seconds.
Those days are imprinted indelibly on my mind. I know exactly how fast - or, to be more accurate, how slowly - I ran them. Not only would I never think of misstating my times, because among other things, it can be easily checked, but most of the runners I know also would never misstate their times. It just isn't done, because however long it takes you to run a marathon, it is arduous, hard work. I may be a slow runner, but I take a certain perverse pleasure in the fact that it took me five and a half hours to finish ... because the key word in that sentence is "finish."
I'm telling you this not to make a political point, although the whole question of marathon times became a political hot potato the other day when the GOP vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, claimed to have run a marathon in under three hours, when it actually took him more than four. I am perfectly willing to take him at his word that he forgot ... though he may be one of the few marathon runners to have forgotten his or her time by such a large margin.
I actually want to make a business point about this. Not surprisingly, it is about the importance of transparency and accuracy, especially in a 21st century environment.
If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago about my marathon finishing time, I would have said I did both in about five and a half hours. When I first read the stories about Paul Ryan's marathon and was contemplating this commentary, it took me exactly 45 seconds to find my exact finishing times on the Internet. Exactly 45 seconds.
Ryan is a serious person with serious ideas about how to run the country. Whether one agrees with him or not, I think we can all agree on that. By not being both transparent and accurate, he actually raises questions - at least in the minds of some people - about his character.
Let's be clear. I'm not saying this should be a deal breaker if you were considering voting for the Romney-Ryan ticket. I actually think it will make no difference to the 45 percent of Americans that will vote Republican in the next election, nor to the 45 percent of Americans that will vote Democratic. (And I certainly hope it is not the sole criteria on which the last 10 percent of voters make their decision.)
But in today's world, whether you are talking about marathon times, or ingredients on a label, or a product's health benefits, or whether something is organic or not, or what an item's environmental profile happens to be, you have to get it right. The big stuff, and the little stuff.
In part, because if you get it wrong people are going to find out. But most of all, because getting it right is what people expect. Get it wrong, and you risk eroding people's trust.
Now, in the interest of transparency, I have to admit right here that I have misled people from time to time. About my height. I'm five-eight-and-a-half, but used to round that up to five-nine. Then I sort of forgot, and started thinking I was actually five-nine-and-a-half, and rounded that up to five-ten. Then I started thinking I was really five-ten-and-a-half, and I rounded that up to five-eleven ... but the first time I said that in front of Mrs. Content Guy, she stopped me and said, in essence, "You are such an idiot. You're five-eight-and-a-half, you've always been five-eight-and-a-half, and the only way that is going to change is when you get old and start shrinking. So cut the crap."
It wasn't that I was misleading people on purpose. I just got so used to telling people one thing that I sort of started thinking it was the truth. Until Mrs. Content Guy set me straight.
That's why I love her. She keeps me honest and transparent.
Everyone - and every organization - needs someone just like her.
Anyway, that's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: