Posts tagged truth
Impostor syndrome vs. "fake it 'til you make it"
Dylan Menges of Menges Design is someone who’s not faking it

Dylan Menges of Menges Design is someone who’s not faking it

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.

Stay humble.

And ignore that voice in your head that says you’re not good enough.

That, friend, is how you will make it.

 

Absolutes and contradictions
not here2.jpg

There’s been quite a bit of commentary regarding a recent Stanford study that proclaims "following your passion" is lousy advice. It reminded me of a premise for a blog post I was considering a few years ago after mentoring a number of entrepreneurs looking to launch their next great idea:

 

Don’t let passion overshadow common sense.”

 

This sounds like reasonable advice, which is why I wrote it down on a note card that perches above my workspace along with dozens of other thoughts and ideas. Here are a few others I’ve jotted down:

 

Reputation is your ROI.

Be generous with your time.

The empty narcissism of awards shows. (credit to Jeff Goodby for this idea)

 

There is a level of absolutism in all of these, a stated right way and an implied wrong way. As a writer and strategist, I can defend these premises. When I do, I’ll likely hold onto them as some form of truth, something close to absolute. I find that worrisome.

I’m careful to write about these things – and numerous others – even when I believe the premise is good (can we agree that being generous with your time might be a good thing?). My journalistic background tells me to be objective, recognize that there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in between.

Instead, like those poetry refrigerator magnets, I flip premises and rearrange the thoughts to reveal something different:

 

Don’t let your passion, your common sense or your ROI overshadow your generosity.

Reputation can be narcissistic.

Generosity is your awards show.

 

I find there's as much truth in these ideas, too, even though it’s not where my mind initially went.    

 

What if passion is allowed to overshadow common sense? Not indefinitely, but briefly and occasionally? What if that seemingly absurd risk (lack of common sense) results in something spectacular? Then what?

 

We’re not inherently wrong to acknowledge things we've long held as truths. Attempting to contradict them also can do us well. It’s where growth and possibility and wonder make their cameos outside of the well-intended plan.

Recently Jeremy and I interviewed Jeff Frane for the Joy Venture podcast. Jeff’s love has always been bicycles – with a dream to design the kind of bikes he and his friends would love to ride. It’s a dream at age 6 that sounds quaint, something that parents would say – go for it! But in your mid-20s with an unrelated college degree and its requisite debt, being broke, living out of a van, and working a warehouse job at a bicycle parts shop, common sense says something entirely different: Abandon your passion. Grow up. Get a real job.

Jeff said something that contradicted that wisdom when we asked what his parents and family thought of his career trajectory. It went like this:

The truth is I had a job. I was working and contributing to society. That’s all that really mattered to them – and to me.” 

We do a lot of projecting of our absolutes on others in an effort to be right. When their contraction of our absolute view proves us wrong, too often we try to explain away the so-called anomaly instead of being inspired.

Absolutes lean toward conformity with unquestionably neat and tidy answers. For the would-be entrepreneur, nothing kills a joy venture faster than immovable absolutes.

On the other hand contradictions are somewhat rebellious; messy with peaks and valleys. People who are actively discovering, developing and desiring to spread their joy know their venture is going to require them to improvise and go with their gut at some point. There’s no clear roadmap. They know it’s not about the plan, it’s about the pursuit.

Test your absolutes. Be open to asking “But what if...?” once in a while. Contrary to conventional wisdom, you might be absolutely surprised what comes of it. 

 

Above image: Micah Lexier: Here, Not Here (Red, Detail), 2017 // Courtesy Birch Contemporary // Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid