Fake it ‘til you make it: an old adage, which, in my opinion, is incredibly overused and all too often misunderstood.
While the saying is described by Wikipedia as, “an aphorism which suggests that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life,” it seems as though the concept fails to fully consider one critical precursor, namely, the very question it begs: How is one supposed to genuinely acquire confidence, competence and an optimistic mindset in the first place?
I’m talking about authentic confidence -- competence and optimism that drives purposeful actions and meaning. This sort of authenticity is not easily replaced with disingenuous behavior. After all, what is so terrible about transparently accepting where we are with full ownership while working toward becoming something better? The more honest we are about ourselves and where we are developmentally, the more we stand to receive opportunities that will help us progress further from where we are.
So, fake it until you make it? Who needs it when we can, instead, work towards a mindset of just "make it, so you never have to fake it?" Here are a few pointers to help us do just that:
Appreciate where you are instead of resisting it.
As a career and executive coach, I have observed how reality unfolds for a couple of different camps of clients: 1) clients who appreciate where they are and approach their next step with a willingness to learn, and 2) clients who resist where they are, only to insist they should be further along -- often, the “fake it ‘til you make it" camp.
Between these two camps, here’s what I’ve repeatedly observed: Those with a growth mindset seem to constantly attract opportunities that propel them just slightly beyond their comfort zones. Each smaller opportunity stretches them a little further than the next and the sum total of their experiences ultimately leads to bigger, long-term opportunities.
Meanwhile, those with a fake-it mentality often set up unrealistic expectations for themselves, only to express disappointment about their work. This camp tends to believe they deserve opportunities not yet matched by their level of effort.
The first camp seizes opportunities directly in front of them as a mechanism for growth, while the second camp obsesses about the outcomes of success with a sense of entitlement and impatience. Waiting idly for the perfect opportunities to fall into their laps, they prefer to overlook existing opportunities and instead, chase ideas for which they are ill-prepared.
As author Robert M. Pirsig says in his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, “The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘go away I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling.” Accepting where we are is the truth, which will enable us to meet our next opportunities. Resisting where we are simply pushes opportunities away or causes us to give up prematurely.
Stop talking about what you are going to do, and just do it.
Naturally, most of us would like to see our learnings get put to good use or get recognized. Surely, once we’ve accumulated knowledge, we’ve got it "made," right? From here, isn’t success just a matter of strategizing how to look the most confident?
Actually, no, there’s more to "making it" than what’s outwardly visible.
To really make it involves consistent effort to practice what we’ve learned. And, by practice, I don’t mean sitting around talking about what we are going to do next. At some point, we need to put down our pencils, get out of our spreadsheets, turn off our PowerPoints and, instead, get out there and start practicing our skills, whether it’s selling, presenting, coaching, writing or anything else.
So many of my clients naturally want to know what it’s going to take to succeed in their next career endeavors. They’ll invest a lot of time and money in things like building the perfect website or figuring out the best marketing strategies instead of simply reaching out to their networks and finding opportunities to practice their skills.
Yes, it’s a lot more comfortable to sit around and feel smart about strategies we are developing instead of actually doing what it takes to get business. But it takes reaching out to people and asking for the sale. Sorry folks, it’s just no more complicated than this. I know many of us would prefer to avoid the discomfort of selling our products and services, in exchange for hiding behind a desk -- but this only delays individual growth and success.
Trust me on this very simple statement: Stop deliberating and talking about what you are going to do next and just start doing it. Put one foot in front of the other and get going. Pick up the phone and call people or reach out to them by email. Do something, anything, other than wasting another minute of your time developing complex strategies for the simplest of tasks. And, if you must have a plan, then write it on a bar napkin and get going, so you can start mastering your craft.
Practice takes precedence over pretending. Instead of showing the world we are practitioners, why not just focus on our practice?
In the end, if we are truly “making it,” our targets will constantly evolve and shift as our knowledge continues to grow and our experience expands. As author Tal Ben-Shahar so eloquently states in his book, Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, “Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing towards the peak.” Happiness, then, is achieved by the process of making it, and not about how artfully we fake it.
Find this article can also be found on forbes.com