The idea of “fake it until you make it” can be a very useful one that leads you to success some of the time, and it can be a disastrous one that leads you down an incredibly dangerous path at other times. The trick is knowing which is which.
First, let’s take a look at what the phrase actually means. It’s simply a way of saying that you should take on some attributes of success before you achieve that success. Often, the presence of those successful attributes can help you to achieve that success that you desire.
Some of the time, this works well. For example, one of the best ways to achieve success in the workplace is to take on the professional attributes of the people who have achieved what you want to achieve. What did they do to make it to their level of success? If you can emulate those attributes, even if they don’t come naturally to you, you can not only teach yourself to have them naturally, you can display those attributes to others which can help further your career.
At other times, it can open you up to significant risk. For example, some people use the idea of “fake it until you make it” as a reason to buy expensive clothing so that they can “dress the part” or drive an expensive car.
In a few narrow cases, “dressing the part” can be a great help. If your job revolves around influencing others, particularly those who are easily influenced by a nice suit or a shiny car, then “faking it until you make it” can really help.
Most of the time, our career success isn’t judged by those standards. We’re judged by our work output. You can dress in Armani if you wish, but if you don’t produce results, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.
In other words, the vast majority of the time, the idea of “fake it until you make it” isn’t an excuse to spend. You might impress a little bit with some beautiful clothes, but you’re much more likely to make an impact with your work output and your professional traits.
A $200 power tie isn’t going to matter too much compared to the guy who can lower the stress of his coworkers and bring his team together.
A shiny car in the parking lot might be cool, but if the guy who drives a rusty Honda Civic can write more reliable code than you, he’s going to be the guy who sticks around.
An amazing watch might look wonderful on your wrist and might earn a second glance, but the person who produces great work when needed with an eye toward the company’s bottom line is going to be the person who keeps their attention.
Your power suit is amazing, but the woman who creates a design that wows the customer is going to be the one getting the accolades.
In other words, if you’re going to try to fake it, try “faking” the positive professional attributes of the people who are most successful in your career path. Better yet, keep trying to “fake it” until those attributes seem natural to you.
If you want to figure out what makes other people successful, it’s not their suit or their car or their tie or their watch. It’s their talents and skills and how they work with them. That’s what you need to emulate and strive for.
If you want to “fake it until you make it,” push yourself a little beyond your current skills. Get in a little over your head, but get there because you have some skill and you’re willing to bring more to back it up.
In the end, it is always the skills that pay the bills. A power suit or an expensive watch usually just takes money out of your pocket and increases your stress.