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Where Faking It Stops

A favorite expression of us in the entertainment industry is “fake it ’til you make it”.

I used to be a huge fan of this phrase.  Today, I’m losing a lot of my old appreciation for it.

Two reasons:

  1. If you’re learning, then by nature you don’t really know what you’re doing.  If you knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t be learning.  So I’m always trying to “fake it”.
  2. At some points, you can’t really fake it.  You either know it or you don’t.  If you need to know your stuff, people who do know it will know you don’t.


For me, if I’m not learning – I tend to be getting bored, really fast.  I can do repetitive tasks (a lot of every job is repeating the same cycle), but I’m regularly trying to learn if there are better or different ways to do them.

This doesn’t always mean speed and efficiency.

If I’m working with a team, and I do a similar-but-not-quite-the-same process as my teammates – is there a reason why I don’t adapt to their process?  Generally, if other team members understand what I’m doing, we work better than if I exist on an island.

By working with others I tend to find out other ways to improve my workflow too.  I know more Excel formulas now than I ever planned on learning in my life, and it makes me tremendously more efficient and effective.  A computer makes fewer errors than I do, and it computes math and comparisons much faster.  I also have the ability to pass these new skills onto others that don’t have them.

But realistically, all of this starts with me “faking” like I know Excel unless I sit down and straight up say “no, tell me more”.  Either way, I tend to learn something.

When you can’t

Imagine you get an interview or a temporary short-term contract for a new position.  Essentially, an employer wants to know more about you and try you out as a candidate for full-time hire.

Let’s say you have 3 days before the position or interview starts.  But you know you’re either rusty or brand new in a chunk of the skills that you need to be “the best candidate”.

If you’re faking it you spend 72 hours absorbing as much information as possible about what you don’t know.  You want to walk into the situation confident and prepared, ready to impress.

The problem is that the most 3 days is going to give you is an understanding of vocabulary, and maybe an introduction to extremely basic skills.  But you’re not going to be experienced.  If you’re talking with someone who is experienced, they’re going to know that.

Therefore there is no “faking it”.  You’re clearly going to know what you know.

Less stress

What I advocate for now is simply knowing what you know, and continuing to learn.  Some situations are all about timing.  You’re way better off in your career if you can tell a superior “hey, I don’t know a lot about that right now, but I love learning and my track record shows that” than simply saying “yeah, yeah I know what you’re talking about” and getting thrown to sharks.

Believe it or not, people worth working with will appreciate you for not lying.  If you don’t disqualify yourself by saying someone else is probably better for the job, you could still even get hired!  Most companies are looking for a good match of culture fit and skills.  If you don’t have as many skills, but you’re not an asshole, you are still heavily in the running to help people out.

So be comfortable with where you’re at.  Be honest, and willing to bust your ass and help others.  But if you’re faking it, just try and be learning.  Build an air of trust, honesty, and respect around yourself – that will work out way better for you in the long run.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.