I gave the advice “Fake it til you make it,” before. I did it happily, borderline smugly even.
Usually, I follow it up with a classic career story of mine, which I will now tell to you (Lucky you; Please imagine me smoking a pipe in a mahogany office).
Many moons ago, on the first day of my first real journalism job in NYC, my editor asked me to write “umbrella quotes” for a few features being printed in the next issue of the business magazine I wrote for.
I had no idea what an umbrella quote was.
My boss, however, was not the type of woman you asked a basic question of.
She was harried, and hurried, and I just knew it would be a mistake.
So I faked it and said, “sure.” Google didn’t come up with a clear answer. I took the elevator downstairs and paced the busy city street while I called my roommate and closest friend, an English Ph.D. candidate who was not in class at the moment.
She knew what it was right away: the large-print quotes that are pulled from the feature to break up the text, more generally known as “pull quotes.” I ran back upstairs and finished the assignment in minutes.
So yes, I faked it when I took on the assignment without flinching, but the faking stopped there. Then I got resourceful and solved the problem with help from a good friend.
And this is where the general advice to “Fake it ’til you make it,” is often misinterpreted.
On Faking It
Many of us feel like we are faking it, a lot of the time. And we DO need to fake it: to get an opportunity; to be invited to a meeting; to land a new client; to start an assignment that stretches us. We smile, and nod, and take a seat close to the boss.
But between the faking it, and the making it, comes lots of thought, hard work and problem-solving.
On Making It
This is not sexy. It’s not exciting. But it is deeply satisfying. In some ways, more than the “making it” part.
In my umbrella quote story, I finished the work, my boss was pleased, and I got to keep my job.
But what solidified this story into near legend in my memory was the bond between my roommate and I. She bailed me out in a time of high panic. It was emblematic of our early days living in New York City: a jumble of apartment hunting, job hunting, free food hunting, and savoring the flood of new experiences.
On Journey Thinking
Every day felt like a struggle to survive. Everything was exhilarating and overwhelming. Together we learned to love the challenge. At the risk of being as cliche as “Fake it ’til you make it.” We learned to, “love the journey.”
So, I came to prefer a different phrase. This is an Ernest Hemingway quote about loving the journey. “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
This journey-thinking, rather than being too focused on “faking it” has taken me farther in my career, and in my life. It certainly made things more fun.
If you can learn to savor problem-solving—and the journey—you won’t be faking it for long.