Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How Practice And BS Can Lead To Success

Michael Gregg
Michael Gregg is 23 going on 80. His interests include pre-1980s music, brown alcohol, and making relationships complicated. He hopes to one day be the host of The Dick Cavett Show.

I’ve never felt qualified to do a job.

I’m too clumsy to be a laborer, too rude to be a server, to self-conscious to be a performer, and I lack the base of knowledge for most white-collar professional gigs. I know a lot of this is probably just my own self-defeating streak (another one of my winning character traits), but I imagine these feelings run common among our generation. With little more than a college degree and a desperate need to pay off a “degree,” how are we supposed to sell ourselves to potential employers/patrons? The answer, as I’ve arrived at it, is this:

Fake it right up to the line between truth and fiction, and hope to God the powers that be buy your bullshit.

This last election season (that’s how lame-ass political professionals measure time), a friend (and much more serious person) asked me to manage his local political campaign, and, like an idiot, I said yes. While my diploma does say “B.A. in Government” on it, I am much more equipped to bore someone at a party with a lecture on the political economy of drug violence in Latin America than I am to charm voters, analyze electoral data, and order lawn signs for a local election. Without question, I was out of my depth and working with people who had the years of knowledge and experience that I so clearly lacked. Thus, I had to fake my way through it.

As it turns out, all you need to do to be taken seriously by people who know what they are doing is wear a tie and act important. 

And once they take you seriously, you can just kind of make educated guesses on what to do, repeat words and phrases that will make it appear as if you know what you’re doing, and defer to colleagues who do know what the fuck they are doing when you’re totally unsure.

I can’t stress enough how much just simply appearing like a qualified person makes you into a qualified person.

You put on a tie and use big words, and we as modern humans are conditioned to grant you the benefit of the doubt.

I imagine the solution is roughly the same no matter the industry or position you may find yourself in. Once adapted to your surroundings and acclimated to the social and verbal climate of a given office or jobsite, it’s not especially difficult to feign skill and experience until you actually accrue enough knowledge to get by on your own merit, rather than bullshit method acting. I’m currently acting as a proxy for a potential developer, and though the professional language has changed (politicians speak in idealism, business people speak hard currency), I’m doing just fine by faking it until I actually get the hang of it.

Of course, these skills (seems a strong word) can also become useful in your personal life as well.

Not that I want to encourage people to lie outright for their personal gain; that kind of behavior qualifies as shitty. The “faking it” strategy is simply a bridge to get you through that awkward period before you figure out how to do a job. If you are actually incompetent or grossly unqualified, you’re sure to fall on your face eventually. Most of the time, however, it just takes a little time, practice, bullshit, and eventually you feel like an actual human being instead of a kid in his dad’s suit.

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