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The Only Time It's Okay To 'Fake It Till You Make It'

The expression ‘fake it till you make it’ belongs in the hallowed halls of clichés at this point. It has been bandied about with great aplomb since the seventies and is regularly invoked to encourage pretense with regard to an element of one’s character or capabilities. But there’s a fine line between that sentiment and a flat-out lie and you had better be on the right side of it if your business or career is at stake. The Law of Attraction movement is the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into someone’s life. A central concept of the movement is to ‘act as if you already have it.’ This in itself is fine and is not too different from the notion of visualizing your future successes and achievements in an attempt to manifest the behaviors necessary to get you there. 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. So, how do you know when it’s safe to do so? Faking behaviors, yes. Faking competencies, no. Many of us would like to improve some element of our character or personality that we feel might be holding us back. Perhaps be more confident, disciplined or ambitious. If we can clearly identify what that is, we can start by changing (forcibly) our behavior with the goal of having it become more natural over time. One of the more common issues that many people struggle with, for example, is a lack of confidence. As you grow your business or advance your career, at some point you will likely have to deliver a presentation to a room full of people, to pitch an idea, a product or to raise money. Even though you might know your material backwards, if you’re not naturally confident in a situation like that you can still feel nauseous for hours in advance. There is only one way to get through it – push yourself to do it anyway. Swallow your fear, stand up and deliver your message. In truth, unless you completely fall apart no one will even know how nervous you were at the time because you acted as if you felt otherwise. The same is true for those who are not natural extroverts. The idea of meeting and talking to new people is abhorrent and frankly they’d be more at ease on a dentist’s chair. But hovering at the side of a room hoping no one will notice you is not going to improve your odds of success. Instead, force yourself to act as if you’re not aghast at the thoughts of forced conversations, put on a smile and say hello to someone. Eventually you’ll figure out that a lot of the folks in the room feel the same way you do about these situations. It won’t get easier immediately, but it will over time. You may never love the idea of engaging with new people but you can certainly learn to hate it less. So, when is it not ok to fake it? When the ‘it’ refers to your core skills or abilities. You can’t feign competence like you can confidence. The unfortunate truth is that simply wanting to be better at something isn’t going to make the slightest difference — you either know how or you don’t. This is where faking it crosses over to the dark side and suddenly you’re lying. You can’t pretend to be fluent in a foreign language if you can hardly string a sentence together. You can’t tell an investor that you have exceptional financial acumen if you can barely work excel. You can’t tell a prospective customer that your product will solve their problem if it won’t. Don’t lie about your, or your company/product capabilities because if you do and you get ‘found out’ then you’ve just lost that person’s trust. If you have a deep desire to change or improve something about yourself and you fake that behavior with conviction in order to get there, then eventually the power of habit will kick in. Just believe fully in yourself, your ability to change and the reason you’re doing it in the first place. As Sophie Kinsella said, ‘If I behave as though this is a completely normal situation, then maybe it will be…’

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