Is “Fake It ‘Till You Make It” Mentality Keeping You Down?

holding-you-downHappy Monday everyone. I just got back to San Francisco after a fantastic weekend in L.A. My wife was in a group art show down there on Friday, and we spent the rest of the weekend catching up with friends.

In between visiting art galleries and catching a great improv comedy show, I really enjoyed reading the comments and email responses to last week’s post on radical lifestyle transparency. It’s clear that transparency for its own sake is controversial, but everyone seems to agree that we need more authenticity and honesty in the worlds of lifestyle design, personal development and online business.

There are countless thousands of bloggers and consultants out there who tell you how to live a better life, how to be productive, how to build a business or how to realize your potential. Many of those people portray themselves as experts on everything in their field, but few of them are open enough for you to really evaluate who they are.


Plenty of those bloggers and consultants aren’t really experts at all, but they think they need to be for anyone to care about what they do. They’ve decided to take the old “fake it ’till you make it” advice to the extreme. And that’s really too bad, because they might have some useful advice underneath all the posturing and marketing.

I’m a big believer in the continuum model of expertise. What I mean by that is expertise isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. There are infinite shades of expertise from complete beginner to massive success. Dave Navarro (The Launch Coach) likes to talk about the 10 point scale of expertise:

You have certain skills you can offer the world, and whether or not you don’t appreciate them, other people can. You may not see yourself as a 10 on the old sliding scale, maybe you’re a 5, but let me tell you this: To people who are a 0, 1 or 2, your 5 might as well be a 10. You have value they need.

But sadly, that’s not how most people see the world. It’s much easier to think about things as black or white, experts or beginners.

For most people, that usually does one of two things. Either you’re an open and honest person, and think “I’ll never be an expert. There are so many other experts out there already. Why would anyone want to pay me for advice or by my product?” Or, you’re more comfortable with creating a facade and instead you think, “Man, people will only buy my stuff if I’m an expert. I better make myself look like an expert until I actually become one.”

In either case, the black/white, expert/beginner view of the world keeps you from growing as fast as you could because you’re not sharing your real value with the world. And what’s worse is that nice guys really do finish last in this instance. Pretending to be someone you’re not will get you further than not trying at all. If you don’t ever try to do something because you’re not already an expert, you’re guaranteed to get nowhere. On the other hand, if you pretend to be someone you’re not, you probably won’t meet your goals, but at least you’ll learn something along the way (and maybe succeed the next time).

A Far Better Way

I’m not at all advocating that you pretend to be an expert. Far from it. There is a much better way. The “fake it ’till you make it” mentality has been widely misunderstood. It’s not about pretending to be a rock star until you actually become one. It’s really about understanding your true value and being confident about how that value can help other people. Don’t fake being a rock star, fake having the confidence of a rock star.

For example, if you’re a complete beginner, share your beginner’s story in all it’s learn-as-you-go-along glory. There is real value in that. Anyone else who comes along to attempt what you’re doing afterward will benefit immensely from your story. Understand your value, know who will benefit from it, and be confident that your value will help other people. Don’t act like a rock star. Act like a rock star beginner.

If you’re somewhere in the middle (not a complete beginner, but not a complete expert), you’re in a fantastic position. Since most people share the all-or-nothing view of expertise, you can stand out with authenticity and openness. Be up-front about where you’ve been successful already and what you’re trying to achieve. What if you haven’t reached all your goals? That’s great. Nobody has reached all their goals. Share your story, understand who can benefit from it, and be confident that your value will help other people. Don’t act like a rock star. Act like a rock star in the making.

Wherever you are on the continuum of expertise, you can blow the fakers out of the water with authenticity and confidence. You know you have something to offer, so get out there and tell people about what that is, with confidence.

Share your thoughts!

Where are you at? Are you a rock star beginner or a rock star in the making? What do you think about “fake it ’till you make it” mentality?

photo by Mohan S

I'm Corbett Barr, co-founder of Fizzle and entrepreneur for a decade. Get my weekly curated email of useful things for independent entrepreneurs »

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