We all feel like frauds from time to time. We strive for a level of excellence in our craft or profession. Occasionally we will reach the mountaintop. More often than not the best outcomes – which is not to be confused with our valiant efforts – will elude us.
“Am I really any good at my craft?”
“If my clients or colleagues only knew...”
“I’m not measuring up to her work or his work; I don’t know why I keep at this.”
“I feel like a fraud, a total fake.”
These are the lies we tell ourselves. This is the impostor syndrome in its full glory. But consider the lies you’re telling others if you actually embrace the fake it ‘til you make it approach.
Simple question: do you want to be on the receiving end of some who is faking it?
Now more than ever we crave leaders and makers who can be vulnerable, show a level of transparency, and own the idea that they — and their work — will always be a work in progress. The humanizing aspect of that kind of vulnerability is no longer a weakness, it’s a strength. That doesn’t imply it’s not good, somehow unworthy, or that it’s not the right idea at the right time. It’s more about the continuous improvement of our work and our growth as a leader or maker.
CONFRONT THE LIES // EMBRACE YOUR TRUTH
If you’re faking it — or felt compelled to fake it — you have to ask yourself: why am I faking it? Why put more effort into appearing great (e.g., think —> over-hyped web content, making big promises, taking credit for work that isn’t fully yours) instead of focusing on actually becoming great at what you do?
I have a trusted friend who runs a consulting business, and for the better part of 20 years he’s asked tough questions of himself. Am I adding value? Is this where I need to focus my efforts? Who do I really want to impact? He’s no impostor in his field, but he thoughtfully questions how he’s making a difference. If he finds that he needs to pivot, he pivots. That takes serious introspection and a willingness to disrupt the business model. He builds upon a strong base of knowledge and experience and then adds new dimensions to it through intensive learning. For him, to keep doing something that didn’t provide value or meaning for his clients would just be another form of faking it.
My JOY VENTURE colleague Jeremy Slagle is one of the more talented designers I know, and he’ll be the first to tell you he doesn’t have a college degree from a prestigious design school. Instead, he went straight to work and refined a childhood passion into a career. He logged his 10,000 hours early in his career — and it shows. He’s not faking it.
And neither is Dylan Menges. That image of him above is part of a brief & vulnerable video clip on his Instagram account where this highly accomplished designer confronts the lies and embraces the truth through his unique illustration and lettering style. We can benefit from more of this kind of truth telling — to ourselves and with others.
HUSTLE — AND THE “FAKE IT or MAKE IT” CONVERSATION
Most people would agree that in business or art, the whole idea of a fake, a phony or a fraud is strong repellent. So how is it this fake it ‘til you make it saying becomes a mantra for the modern-day hustler and their hustle? Do they not see how disingenuous is while also dismissing those who make the commitment to quietly put their heads down, lean in and learn, figure things out, and then strategically move forward?
Admittedly, I have a like-hate relationship with the concept of hustle. I know some people who hustle hard and in a genuine way. They are makers and doers who are exceptionally strong at their craft, fighting uphill battles daily to do what they love and spread their joy. And I cheer them on.
But too often the image that comes to mind is that of the hustler who places emphasis on the win and to be seen as a winner in all the right places. This is the impostor syndrome rearing its head again, this time with massive doses of overcompensation. Even if the hustler scores a win, there’s this pesky thing called ‘the work’ that still has to happen. Where is the joy in such pretense? How can their be joy in receiving (accolades) if there was no giving (doing the work)? Deception is the opposite of spreading joy.
THERE’S NO FAKING IT TODAY
Our radars are too keen and well-tuned to sniff out what isn’t authentic.
So keep it real.
And ignore that voice in your head that says you’re not good enough.
That, friend, is how you will make it.