We’ve all been there before — a task was assigned to us, a contract we’ve wanted to bid on, a project around the house — all of which we’ve just said yes to, without really having an idea as to how to do it, yet each time we all somehow manage to get by.
This idea I described above is something that’s not only prevalent in the tech industry, but rather is fundamental to being alive. Both new and veteran entrepreneurs face increasingly difficult challenges in various markets, developers and designers build products to solve problems they may not have individually faced, first-time parents dive head first into child-care without truly grasping the depth of the challenge.
As children grow up, they soon realize that their parents were Faking it. It’s not a bad thing, and hell, each one of us probably turned out okay. But when we were younger and didn’t know better, we thought our parents knew everything. They must have read some book which was an infinitely long flow chart with a solution to every problem. As silly as it was to think that, this is truly an incredible human coping mechanism — “Fake it till you make it.”
There is an unfortunate stigma around this idea. People are ashamed that they don’t have all of the answers. They’re ashamed they might not have known how to solve a problem, but by some miracle, they managed to pull through thanks to external force one and two. They coyly tell their family and friends that there is “no way I should have been able to do this.”
There is a way, and you found it.
Faking it till you make it isn’t some half-assed explanation for successful outcomes, it’s a means for delving into the unknown.
Faking it till you make it is the idea that you have enough confidence in your abilities to find solutions to problems you haven’t yet faced.
We should be proud to have such a remarkable ability. This confidence allows us to learn new skills, challenge ourselves, and grow!
Originally the title of this article was “The Process of Faking it” — but in reality, there isn’t a clearly defined process. What I could write here would be one way of solving a handful of problems I’ve faced in my world, which might not even work for my brother, let alone anyone else. While there isn’t a formula for faking, I would argue there is a pattern, regardless of the challenge. Faking it, as mentioned above, is just a self-deprecating label used to describe the pursuit of personal growth. Universally, people are riding the crest of discomfort as they expand their capabilities. This maps directly with Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi’s idea of Flow, in positive psychology.
Flow describes a balance and tension between a challenge and our perceived ability to meet that challenge. One must have enough confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand, even if they have no idea how they might do so. With these conditions met, a person will feel energized, engaged, and fulfilled. Without a consistent challenge, a state of apathy or boredom quickly sets in. I’ve said this before, and I’ll repeat it: there is nothing worse than being bored. On the flip side, if the challenge genuinely outstrips our ability to perform, we transition from Faking It to good old fashioned failure.