Success – Fake it ‘til You Make It

If you want to be, do.

Chinese Proverb

That particular proverb is the nice way of saying what we used to say in karate class, “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

Just do it.

Nike made a whole lot of money off that slogan (the slogan succeeded (heh)). Why? Because a really good slogan, or proverb, or karate class saying, distills a complex concept down to just a few syllables.

Over here, I wrote that one of the keys to success is to take action, and isn’t “take action” synonymous with “do it?” Alternatively, as I put it earlier, Just Show Up.

But what if you don’t know how to do it? Well then, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Or, “If you want to be, do.”

We never know how to do something until we, you know, actually try to do it. Do we get it right off the bat, first try? Yeaaaahhhh, no. We fail. Sometimes miserably, but we learn something and do it again, and again, and if we do it enough times, we get it. We succeed.

Over the course of my checkered career, I spent several years travelling the country teaching engineers how to drive their CAD software. Now, you might be asking,

  • What is CAD?
  • Which software?
  • What kind of engineers?

You might be, but I hope not, because that’s not germane to the story. The story is about faking it ‘til making it which, for me, began when I was a green belt. Yes, there is a reason I mentioned the karate class.

I was one of the early students of my club (in fact I was the first homegrown black belt in said club), and when bunch of us got up to green belt, Sensei told us we were all going to start helping teach classes. He handed us a sign up sheet and told us to pick a class to assist.

As a painfully shy guy, I had absolutely zero desire to do this. Stand in front of the class? As the teacher? Talk in front of people? Be the expert they looked to for answers? Back then these thoughts gave me cold sweats and I began firing off excuses as fast as I could.

Sensei listened to my list of excuses, handed me the sign up sheet and told me to pick a class. Which I did. When class time came, I put on a brave face and faked it. Over time, I actually got to be pretty good at it. What’s more, the act of teaching accelerated my practice, making me a better karate practitioner a lot faster.

Fast forward a few years.

I taught karate for a number of years, gained confidence in my ability to speak in public, to teach, to answer questions, to be the expert in the room. Eventually came the opportunity to be a certified teacher for the CAD company.

Which CAD company? It doesn’t matter, stop distracting me.

How confident did I become in being an instructor? One time I was contracted to teach a class using a textbook I’d never even heard of, much less read or mastered. What did I do? Showed up a day early, picked up a copy of the text and read the first three chapters the night before the class began. From there, all I had to do was stay ahead of the class for the rest of the book.

You see, I had already mastered the CAD practices. I had already mastered the art of teaching. Learning a new textbook was simply a matter of finding out what the author wanted to say, in what order.

It all came out of being handed a sign up sheet as a painfully shy green belt, and forced to do, and in doing, become.

Or more plainly, I faked it, and then I made it.

Or more to the point, I took action and succeeded.