Fake it till you make it.
When I was a young person, having just finished a teaching degree, I remember being given a few 'valuable' pieces of advice that confused me. The main one, the one I recall foremost was, ‘just remember, fake it till you make it!’ (The second in line was ‘don't smile until Easter.’ But that is for another conversation 😉)
This simple statement was given with support and well-meaning, I’m sure, but I must admit that i felt it was a rather questionable piece of advice to give a young person starting their career. And today, i would go even further and say it’s not just questionable. it could be downright dangerous!
As Susan O’Brien in Forbes Magazine, reflects:
‘Faking it for the right reasons can change you for the better, but getting it wrong can create all kinds of problems with trust and transparency.’
I recognise that there are a bunch of people who would claim that the advice of fake it till you make it has served them well. And maybe it has. Perhaps it has for you too. But I wonder what unintended consequences could manifest when settling into the comfort of this phrase, trusting in this approach alone.
‘to pretend; simulate’
‘designed to deceive or cheat’
‘anything made to appear otherwise than it actually is’
‘to cause to be or become’
‘to produce, earn, or win for oneself’
My concern with ‘fake it till you make it’ is that it potentially lacks transparency and authenticity, and it may even lead to acceptance of less rather than more. And in that, I mean the journey to being truly unique in the work you do and not being less than the brilliant person you are, doing the fantastic work you are capable of, that only you can do.
In the work I do, I see that often people choose to not go beyond faking it and do the work, the grind, to become the real thing, the make – masterful, impactful, useful.
If you continue to ‘fake it till you make it,’ you are at risk of never genuinely leaving the ‘fake’ behind and doing the work you need to do to get to the ‘make.’ The continuingly better version of you. The 10,000 hours of practice required for expertise that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book ‘Outliers’.
Now let’s hit pause for a moment. You may think I am looking too deeply into this phrase, and I will concede that maybe I am. But I offer these thoughts for you to take stock of, and look inside your work and life. I wonder how often we show up in the different elements of our life with an attitude of faking it till we make it. Having an attitude and philosophy covering our insecurities and inadequacies, rather than just holding things transparently, openly, and being honest and true regarding our capability and experience, or lack thereof.
Often if we spend our time faking it till we make it, we’re distracted from the next opportunity that is way more suited to us. We are so busy trying to be everything to everyone that we aren’t that special thing to someone. (Yes, niching and specialisation is good and getting better!)
The more we focus on making it, seeking to understand the work we are uniquely gifted and meant to do, the work only you can do as the amazing human you are, the more impressive your work will be. And when you are in that make it not fake it space, the more peaceful, able, and successful you will be in that work (and the more useful and valuable your clients will find you!)
So, next time someone launches out and offers to fake it till they make it, maybe you could offer some assistance in helping them understand the challenge that may come from that approach. It’s a great place to begin with, but it isn’t a place to park your van for very long.
As always, I’m keen to hear your thoughts and experiences.