There’s an old idea that if we pretend that we already are what we want to become, that our appearance of success will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The thinking is that if we present ourselves as successful, then other people will also see us as successful and we’ll have the confidence and the appearance necessary to actually become successful. Successful people want to do business with other successful people, so the assumption is that you need to appear to already be successful so that other successful people will want to do business with you. This is known as “fake it ‘til you make it,” but does it actually work?
How People Fake It
In the business world, someone who is faking it will convey an image of success that they have not yet achieved. They do this through their appearance (what they wear, what they drive, etc.) and how they speak about themselves. Entrepreneurs that are faking it will often convey that things are going great in their business and that they’re generating a lot of revenue, when in reality they are struggling or have yet to get traction. Business owners might also present themselves as having more experience, expertise or notoriety than they actually have. Some faking it behavior, such as wearing a nice suit or acting confidently, is totally benign. However, faking it becomes dishonest and immoral when taken to an extreme.
Here are some extreme examples of people faking it that I have seen in my community:
- Telling people that they are making tens of thousands of dollars per month when they can’t pay their own bills.
- Claiming to have a college degree that they don’t actually have.
- Regularly dropping the names of extremely successful people to create the appearance that they have a close relationship with them when they don’t.
- “Winning” an industry award that was purchased or otherwise made-up.
- Driving an extremely expensive car that they cannot afford.
Does Faking It Work?
People that are faking it in the business world want other people to like them, respect them and think that they’re successful. Does this actually work? I don’t think so. It’s usually pretty easy to see right through exaggerated claims of greatness. In a world that’s littered with Bernie Madoff’s and Lance Armstrong’s, people listen to claims of greatness and success with an increasingly skeptical ear. In addition, it’s pretty easy to tell whether or not someone is being truthful about themselves with the sheer information available about people on the internet these days. For example, if someone claims that their business is upending an industry or changing the world, but there’s no media coverage of that company anywhere, it doesn’t take a genius to know that their claims of greatness are entirely imaginary.
If you are faking it, someone will eventually figure you out. Successful business people regularly talk to each other and word will get around that you’re not being truthful in the claims that you make about yourself. When word does get around, you’ll lose a lot of credibility within your business community. Others will listen to what you say with skepticism and will be much less likely to ever want to do business with you.
Even if you were to successfully get away with faking it, you would know in your heart that you are being disingenuous with people. You may begin to think that you don’t actually have what it takes to be successful in your own right, which will sabotage any chance you have of actually being successful. Worse yet, you might actually begin to believe your own distortions of reality and begin to believe that you are already successful when you’re not.
Let’s Be Real
Let’s start being genuine about who we actually are. People will like and respect you much more for being honest about where you’re at in life and where you’re going than pretending to be something you’re not. If you’re just getting started in an industry, that’s entirely okay. Be honest about that. Others will love to see you learn, grow and advance in your industry and will celebrate your wins with you. In fact, there are many successful people that would love to mentor you if you’re honest, willing to work hard and are full of enthusiasm. When you do actually become successful, others will celebrate your success because they have seen how hard you have worked and the progress that you have made.
When you do actually become successful, you should probably understate your success and achievement. Even if you are very successful, you shouldn’t talk about your own greatness because nobody likes a bragger. If you truly are successful, your reputation will precede you and you won’t have to tell anyone how successful you are. Other people will talk about how successful you are and that’s much more valuable than anything that you might say about yourself.