Fake It Till You Make It

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Let’s face it: not everybody has the high level of skills to really deliver the goods from day one.

I was listening to Howard Stern the other day. He was interviewing Aerosmith front-man and new American Idol judge, Steven Tyler. Stern asked Tyler if he knew growing up that he would be a rock star. Tyler said that even though the early days were hard and the band played to empty rooms, he knew he had the goods. When Stern pressed him about how he conducted himself in those days when compared to some of the American Idol contestants who seem to come on to the TV show and have a false sense of entitlement, Tyler replied that all he did was focus on the line: "fake it till you make it."

You have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing… even when others don’t.

It’s both a slippery slope and a fine line (if you can’t carry a tune, you’re not going to be a great singer no matter how much you try to fake it). And yes, there are also many people who are delusional (to a degree). That line, "fake it till you make it," still stuck with me. To a certain degree, I’ve been doing that for most of my life. Our lives are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t believe that you have the skills sets and haven’t set yourself up for success (educating yourself, working to build a portfolio, establishing yourself as a credible authority, etc…), you will be bound for failure. But, if you have done those things and you are getting some initial positive feedback, faking it till you make it is an extremely important (and powerful) attitude to have.

Social Media helps you fake it better than anything else. 

A statement like that will be taken negatively by many people. Because anyone can publish their thoughts in text, images, audio and video, there is a perception that any quack or snake-oil salesperson can fake it… without ever being able to make it. It’s true. But the other side of that equation is that there are many smart and well-informed people out there as well who can tell the difference between someone who is using the channel to "fake it till they make" versus someone who is just "faking it."

Faking it is bad. Faking it until you make it is good.

Always remember: great content does find an audience. People like to share great content. If that’s not happening for you right now, you have to keep at it or figure out the right formula to make it work for you. All of the crazy, hot Marketing agencies on the market today started out as a small handful of people who had the skills and the ability to fake it until they made it. The big difference now is that Social Media gives you a platform to really share what you’re all about with the world… instantly… and you’ll get the next-to-real-time feedback to know what they think (and yes, silence is feedback as well).

So, what are you waiting for? Fake it till you make it! 


  1. Had a client, a photographer, that wanted to shoot destination weddings (who wouldn’t, right?). I was building him a log and advising him on strategy. Problem was, he hadn’t done many destination weddings. My advice was to blog about that type of wedding more than anything else, so that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Write about something until you become an expert and your expertise will be recognized by others. Don’t wait until someone gives you permission. Succesful people don’t ask for permission.

  2. To “Fake it ’til you make it,” you have to put in the time and effort.
    To “Fake it,” you don’t.
    Honestly, has anyone ever just done it? Everyone does a little FITYMI in their lives as a way to keep up, or keep with, the tide of culture and events.
    Nothing wrong with that.
    Faking it is more about learning how to make it than it is about pretending.
    At least to me, that is.

  3. While I do agree with you Mitch it can also be a dangerous road to travel. Sometimes people forget who they are and get lost in a persona they create in order to be accepted by others. In the industry I’m in (selfhelp/motivational/business confferences) you can imagine how many fakes I’ve met along they way and many of the say to fitymi but then they get lost in it. I think faking ones financial status or size of a company etc may help along the path you’ve chosen, after all BS baffles brains and always will but the scary thing is sometimes people misinturpit the appoarch and simply become the biggest liars you have ever met. 
    So I guess I’m saying fake somethings but not who you are or who you want to be, because when you fake “you” sometimes you get lost in the Fake. 
    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  4. When my son was 10, he told our Librarian, Julie that he really enjoyed writing. She told him he could be a writer when he grows up. He looked her in the eye and said, “I am a writer.”
    ‘Making it’ happens in our own heads long before it is a ‘reality’ – and it must in order to become a reality. If we don’t take on the role, if we don’t do the work of that role, how can we expect to ever get into that role?
    Fake it till you make it, is one way of saying it. So is: dress for the position you want; or believe it to achieve it; or just do it.

  5. Great post Mitch. Take action and if you don’t know all the answers but you know your goal(s) just do it! The rest will follow!
    Make it a great day!
    Kyle McGuffin

  6. Cool post. Perhaps if we said, “Do it virtually, simulate it, before you do it for real” it would be less controversial. Faking it is simply running through all the *as if* favorable possibilities until the operation gets enough traction. The more you come in contact with resistance (the real world), the more the simulation is forced to change and grow (or crash). Change and grow enough, and you no longer are “faking it”.
    That is why Social Media allows you to fake it until you make it better than many other approaches. It’s vituality.

  7. What sagely advice.
    Years ago when I was an intern at a studio, the artist Ice-T would say, “act like you know” and then he would continue to explain that to be successful you have to “fake it until you make it”. When he transitioned from a professional recording artist to an actor I knew how he was able to make the transition. His drummer Vic (of blessed memory) had a great saying that “closed mouths don’t get fed” but that’s another story for another time.
    My father also has a couple of great sayings that have stuck with me. Whenever I mentioned luck, he would flatly say “there is no such thing as luck… it is a simple math equation: luck = preparation + opportunity” and yes, purchasing a lottery ticket WOULD count as preparation in his book. The other one he used to say was, “if you want to be a duck…. walk like a duck, talk like a duck, dress like a duck and surround yourself with ducks… pretty soon, you’re a duck!”
    Great post and I really enjoyed being reminded that the best advice is simple and comes from people you trust and admire.

  8. Great post. I was raised in Italy. I studied Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and many Renaissance masters in all the arts. The most important thing I learned from them was that they “copied” the masters that came before them. They copied to learn. Eventually they developed their own style and became masters. Without that foundation of working to match the masters, they would not have made it. I’ve been using that method, just like I’m in the Medici Gardens with them, in everything I do and it has worked well for me.

  9. @R. Michael Brown, your thought gives me also to recall that the reason why the masters had copied from master is because Art at the time was a huge production line, and nearly everyone spent long years in apprenticeship, literally doing their master’s work. It was not just that soon-to-be masters wanted to be like masters, but it was a culture and means of production of copying. Originality was not seen as it is today, an indisputable virtue.
    Social Media today it is an interesting variation on a culture of copying.

  10. I tried this at a networking event the other day. Walked in with the idea that I knew my stuff very well and had a way to provide people there with help.
    The event went much better than any event I’ve been to.

  11. Very important point, and I’m glad you made it. Faking it until you make it, good; faking it across the board without having the goods to back it up, bad. The second group are the ones who ruin it for everyone else because they’re the ones that breed distrust. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  12. I completely agree with this statement – in career and personal life. I’ve had an interesting & challenging couple of years but I, luckily, have always believed in myself and my abilities to get what I want most in life. The word “fake” has some negative connotations but, for me, I see it as a way to communicate how confident I am in obtaining my hopes & dreams. When you “make it”, it’s really not faking it after all. It is just you telling the world your vision. I agree with the comments above about having to put the time & effort in though. If those are absent, you’ll just be faking it with little chance of making it. Great post – LOVE it!!

  13. Mitch – good post and great discussion in comments. While I get the idea of this saying, I have always had a problem with it. Maybe I am taking it too literally, but ‘faking it’, always seemed like a cop-out to me. ‘persevere’, ‘believe in yourself’, ‘just do it’, ‘try, try, try again..’ – these always seemed like more meaningful adages. I have just seen too many people that seemed to ‘fake it’ and actually ‘make it’, but largely unwarranted. Maybe that’s ok for some, but I admire people who have truly accomplished by learning, struggling, failing, and trying again until success occurs. I am sure that for most this saying is not about trickery at all, but sometimes that’s the sense I get from some.

  14. Studies show that America is #37 in education in the world, but #1 in confidence. There’s a lot of “fake till you make it” going on. And as a coach, I have noticed over and over that men are more proficient at this than women. Nature or nurture?

  15. Most excellent post Mitch — and the great thing about social media is there are valuable resources, such as yourself and many others, who are willing to share their expertise, knowledge and insight that can help you improve everyday as you ‘fake it til you make it,’ so to speak. Those who have the right intentions, are willing to work their ass off and continue to practice, learn and master their craft will inevitably reach their goals.
    Thanks for all you do – you’re definitely one of the best resources on the web.

  16. A thoughtfully written post Mitch, as there is a distinct difference between Faking It Till You Make It and just Faking It. The market will separate the delusional, as Cream Always Rises to the Top, and those so completely off base will not get hired a second time.

  17. Great post. I see “fake it” as, you already are a star.
    People just have to recognize it, and start talking about you. Once you “make it,” you’re
    no different than the expert you were that led you up to that point. There are
    millionaires walking around that are still broke. They have the millionaire psychology,
    but they haven’t been noticed yet.

  18. This is a very inspiring post as well as that line. But what I’m concerned of is what if we forget who we really are and got used to be the one faking to achieve a certain goal. But I guest it’s a personal decision.

  19. Be it till you are it!
    Life is a self fulfilling prophesy, manage the prophesy or the prophesy will manage you.
    Great blog.

  20. In order to “fake it till you make it”; the corollary is that you need to know your skill-set REALLY well. If you don’t, then people will expose you for the fake that you are. Know your s***. And make sure you NEVER make a mistake. Above all don’t go making grandiose statements that “you’re the TOP travel photographer” in the world like somebody I’ve seen do…because people will expose you for the fraud that you are.

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