We often hear the phrase, “Fake it till you make it.”
I know the loving intent people have when saying it, but it has dangerous consequences.
It’s a common catchphrase that suggests you imitate confidence so that the confidence produces success, which will seemingly generate real confidence.
But I have found that when people fake anything, they only produce more fakeness, and that leads to disconnect, trouble, misery and ultimately failure.
When people fake anything, they only produce more fakeness, and that leads to disconnect, trouble, misery and ultimately failure.
Let me tell you about someone whose experience can serve as a warning and an example of this important principle.
Jimmy White was
standing in the hallway outside a conference room.
This was it.
The biggest pitch of his career.
At 23 years old, Jimmy had just started his own commercial and residential land brokerage firm, although opening his own business was never his plan. It was only after being interviewed 30 times at the biggest existing firm and still being rejected that he decided to start his own.
He named it White & Associates, though at the moment Jimmy was the only associate. But that could all change. He was moments away from persuading a bank to let White & Associates represent 2,000 acres of a 4,000-acre plot of developed, bank-owned land. Jimmy knew the odds were against him; he lacked a national presence, a portfolio of past projects or even a team to back him up. He also knew the bank was already planning to sign with someone else—the firm that rejected him 30 times!
Doubt began to creep in, and Jimmy resolved to just fake it. But then as the door to the conference room opened, he recalled another pivotal hallway moment. It was in 10th grade and Jimmy was delivering a report on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in class. Had he read the book? No. His dyslexia meant Jimmy had never read a book in his life—but he was going to fake it.
One minute into the presentation, his teacher stopped him. “Jimmy, please come with me into the hallway.” Standing outside the classroom, his teacher asked, “Did you read the book?” “No.” said Jimmy as he stared at his shoes. His teacher sighed. “Jimmy. There’s something I want you to learn here. Look at me.”
The next words changed Jimmy’s life. “I’m going to give you a passing grade, but only if you promise that from now on, you’ll only talk about what you KNOW. If you don’t know something, be honest about it. If you don’t have the answer, say so. And then, instead of faking what you DON’T know, talk passionately about what you DO.” Jimmy nodded, knowing his teacher was talking about more than book reports.
As Jimmy was invited into the bank conference room, he knew what to do. He spoke passionately about everything he knew—and he knew every inch of that land. He had driven it, walked it and surveyed it himself. He knew every road, rock and ripple on the water of the man-made lake. Were there questions he couldn’t answer? Sure; he freely admitted that. But it didn’t matter, Jimmy was on fire, and at the end of the pitch the deal was his.
But it didn’t end there. The bank that owned the OTHER 2,000 acres wanted Jimmy, too. When he sold the land to developers, THEY wanted him to sell the 12,000 lots to the home builders. And years later when the market crashed and the lots went back to the banks, Jimmy was there to sell it again.
That one moment, of selling what he knew instead of faking what he didn’t, made Jimmy White millions of dollars, and now White & Associates brokers more than $1 billion in land deals a year.