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As kids, we learn by repeating what we see and hear around us. We don’t necessarily have to understand the reasons why things are done a certain way, we just do and eventually, it becomes second nature.
Then, school begins and things start to have to make sense. We no longer just repeat behaviors; we have to understand why we do the things we do. We minimize the importance of repeating success.
But, repeating or imitating success can get you very far.
After all, you’ve all heard the clichés:
If you fake it long enough you eventually become it
Fake it ’til you make it
It’s not lying if you believe it…
The story goes that, as a child, Theodore Roosevelt was frequently sick, had a weak body and suffered from asthma. His father once said to him: “Theodore, you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body.”
Roosevelt was a brilliant boy that realized early in his life that all the successful men he knew (including his father) were all models of health and good shape. So, he worked hard to build his body through an exercise program his father devised. This drive and desire to be the image he wanted to be stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Often times, pretending that you are what you say you are can be enough. Other times, as with Roosevelt, you need to put the work because, “faking it” is about credibility. You need to stop thinking that no one will believe that you’re a succesful this or that and start believing it yourself.
You need to be able to hold the lie. I know lying is not good but, sometimes, what you are right now matters less than what you will become…
Growing up, my friends and I used to outdo each other pretending we were this or that when we were going out. We used to invite ourselves to company parties pretending to work in the archive room… or go to house parties saying that we were friends of John or Jeff… It didn’t always work but, the challenge was to push the limit a bit further… For the time of an evening, I could be a swedish businessman, a tv star or a scriptwriter.
This was a lesson in understanding that, as long as you’re able to hold a role and exude confidence in it, you can get away with a lot of things. It also made me realize that you can say very audacious and daring things as long as you don’t flinch. If you’re serious and stand by what you say, people will tend to accept it as the reality.
This led me to believe that credibility is within… if you make your story realistic and have the empathy to understand the composition of the people you pretend to be, you can truly imitate your way to the top.
Until you no longer can…
I used to work with a smart, beautiful, confident and talented girl. Although her title had the word “manager” in it, she wasn’t officially a manager. This made her unhappy and eventually made her leave her job when a better opportunity presented itself.
In the next year, she would become senior manager in a tech company then, a few months later, director in a large retail chain. She was, by far, their youngest director… but, it didn’t last very long.
Ultimately, “in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence” (Peter Principle). She quit her job before getting fired. Turns out, it’s very hard to keep faking it.
Although you can definitely “fake” your way to success, it can be a dangerous gamble. If you don’t give yourself the time to eventually become it and adjust to your new role, you can easily fall down the ladder. Tortoise and the Hare after all…
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