Forget “Fake It Till You Make It.” If you really want success, do this


When I first started writing this column, I was suffering from a severe case of imposter syndrome. Before I started working for myself, I worked for a non-profit organization my entire professional life.

So when I saw my byline pop up next to unicorn CEOs and Shark Tank investors, that little voice kept calling out in my head:

I remember being advised to just “fake it till you make it”. Well-meaning people told me to fake my self-confidence or pretend to be something I’m not — with the goal of eventually learning enough to become the person I aspired to be.

But I discovered major problems with this approach. In the end I decided to take a different path.

I doubled on writing what I knew. I focused on sharing my unique experience. About sharpening my voice. After that, I contacted other successful writers and learned from their process.

After much time – and many mistakes – I found my voice and discovered an audience of millions of people eager to learn from my own experience.

Today I like to call this technique…

LAUGH: Learn. Apply. To understand. increase. Help out.

The LAUGH approach is based on principles of emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and control emotions. Let’s see how it works and why it’s more effective at building trust than faking it.

(If you find value in the LAUGH approach, you may be interested in my full emotional intelligence course — which contains 20 additional rules to help you develop your emotional intelligence. View the full course here.)

How the LAUGH Approach Helps You Fight Impostor Syndrome and Build Confidence

The problem with fake until you make it is that it’s built on a shaky foundation. Even if others don’t know that your confidence isn’t authentic, you do. Instead of fighting the impostor syndrome, you feed it.

Plus, a lot of people will see right through that false bravado, and that will work against you in the long run.

The LAUGH approach, on the other hand, is based on authenticity and encourages a growth mindset. You go in with the conviction that you are starting something new and that you still have a lot to learn. But you are also determined to succeed and will do everything you can to become the best at what you do.

With LAUGH, it doesn’t matter if you’re starting a new business, a new position, or working with a new client. When you feel like you’re up to your ears, embrace that feeling — and use it as a catalyst to work both harder and smarter.

Step 1: Learn.

Those who fake it until they make it act like know-it-alls; you want to learn everything.
Find experts and contact them. Invite them for lunch or for coffee. Asking questions. Learn from their process, their habits. Treat your conversations with them like your favorite podcast interviewer would: genuinely interested in how they do things, in the lessons they’ve learned, and how those lessons can benefit others (including you).

When you go in with a learning mindset, you respect the experience of others. The benefit is twofold: you earn their respect and build your network, and improve at the same time.

Step 2: Apply.

It’s scary to try new things. Something that may help is a phrase I learned from a fellow Inc. columnist:

Let’s run the experiment.

When you run the experiment, you’re eager to try out new ideas and adapt right away. Like the time I tried to write a column every day for three months. This pace was not sustainable for me, but it was never meant to be. It was a ‘sprint’ and I learned a lot from it in terms of finding the balance between what I wanted to write about and what resonated with the readers.

When you run an experiment, don’t worry if things don’t go the way you expected. You make mistakes, things go wrong. But that’s all part of the process of getting better.
No experiment is a failure. It’s a learning experience.

Step 3: Understand.

As you run the experiment over and over, you’ll start to see patterns.

So it was with this column. I realized that instead of just describing what emotional intelligence was in theory, I needed to give real life examples. And when I could take news stories or my personal life as an example, people responded.

You can do the same: if you keep trying, analyzing and learning, you will begin to see what works and what doesn’t. If you do it often enough, you develop insights that others don’t.

Step 4: Grow.

A lot of people go wrong here. Once they understand what works, they stop learning. Now they become ‘know-it-all’.

Never consider yourself an expert. Always consider yourself a student. This way you can continue to refine your process. To continue customizing. To grow further.

Steps one through three will give you an edge over most others. But with step four you get into the top one percent.

Step 5. Help.

Now you are in a position to help others.

You will be surprised; it won’t take as long as you think to get to step five. There are always people a few steps behind you, people who can benefit from what you have already learned. But you can help even those who are more experienced than you – because you bring a unique perspective, a unique set of experiences.

Armed with insight that only you bring to the table, and with a mindset of actually being willing to help others, you continue to draw others to you.

If you’re like me, you still struggle with the same feelings when you try something new. That same lack of self-confidence, the same voice that shouts: you don’t belong.

But what you need to remember is this:

The people you are being intimidated by? They are just like you. They have strengths, weaknesses, fears. In some things they are good, in others they are not.

So, if you’re feeling like a little fish in a big tank, don’t forget to pretend until you make it.
LAUGH well instead – and prove that you really belong.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not’s.

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