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Grin and Fake It

You think successful people know what they're doing? Think again!

Some notable wit said that 90% of life is just showing up.   That may be true, but a good 75% is also faking it.   It’s how successful people get from point A to point B.  It’s deep at the root of confidence, and I think it stokes the fires of creativity.

When I was a kid, I was always impressed how grownups seem to know just what to do, whether it was at their grownup jobs, or taking care of the home and kids.   I longed for the day when I, too would have that cool calm.  “What serenity there must be, in always knowing what you’re doing!”, I thought.

I never seemed to know just what I’m doing.  I mean, I knew what I knew, but life never seemed to demand of me the things I already knew – it always wanted what I didn’t quite know.   When I got my first real job (with a paycheck), I got it as a result of faking it, a little. 

“Can you drive a stick?”, they asked.

“Sure!”, I replied, even though my only experience with driving a stick was doing some laps around a parking lot in my uncle’s big pickup with a three-on-the-tree.   Fortunately, I was able to get the delivery van out of the driveway, and did my learning (stalling, gear grinding, etc.) out on the road.

As I became an adult, I realized that the conditions that drove me crazy as a kid still exist for adults.  Yes, you have a wider range of experience and knowledge to draw upon, but you’re still constantly faced with situations that demand you know things you really don’t.  So, you fake it.  You hope for the best, make some guesses and plow ahead.  And oddly enough, MOST of the time it works out!  And when it doesn’t, you make note of what you’ve learned, and have something (wisdom?) to use if the same situation presents itself again.

So, if you didn’t know already, I’m here to tell you: NONE of us really knows what we’re doing.  The difference between being a happy success and a miserable failure is really just the ability and confidence to grin and fake it!

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Anne Mobley February 25, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Love this article. You are right, Bruce. When I started my first business in Nevada, eight years ago, I had never been in that type of business before. I was pretty green. I knew I had the office skills but I really didn't know much about the rest of the business. For the first few months, I did fake it. I learned quite a lot. One was "location - location - location." Another was "don't hire your relatives, even the ones you inherit by marriage." Most entrepreneurs of small businesses take chances. I did and am happy I did because it gave me a new career after retirement. I had no idea I would be doing what I am doing now back those eight years ago. Fake it 'til you make it. PS - isn't that bonnie Prince Charlie in the photo?
Brian Walker February 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Bruce, thanks for sharing this piece. It should be required reading for high school seniors (you don't want kids to find this stuff out too early, after all).
Withmar February 29, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Is that a musical term?
Chris Kapsalis February 29, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I'll pass on getting on that train with Charles in charge. He aint looking where he is going? But Hey, like tonight at Roxx I will be grinning and faking it. : ) Pretend I know what I am doing. Should be fun. In this case nothing too bad will happen if I make a mistake. Now a doctor, hmmmm, maybe not so much.
Mark Hanses March 01, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Great post! I try to tell my students this, but it really is something that you learn from experience.

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