stop faking, keep making
“Fake it till you make it” seems like a logical and reassuring suggestion, especially if you’re taking a risk and doing something you’ve never done before. If anything, invoking a new behavior often leads to actions that will make the projection come true, right? Learn as you go. Anyways, it’s not really faking if you believe your intentions. There is actually a whole pretty successful website of people faking it until they make it.
But the problem with faking it till you make it is…the faking it part. Living in a temporary world will never be sustainable, even if you do make it. If you succeed believing that you faked it, will it feel like true success? How will you know when you can stop faking it? Is the road to imposter syndrome paved with faking it ‘til you make it?
A common question about the viability of a startup is, “Does it scale?” A more important question might be the idea of personal scalability, something that is impossible to “fake” because it has to be long term (ie, your whole life). How long can you be inauthentic before someone else figures it out, or you burn out?
Personal scalability asks, ‘Am I the person that can grow authentically with the company, the choices, challenges, the heartache, sacrifices?’ Maybe the people who get this right or have this quality have the most success. Maybe the people who are supported in asking these questions have success.
“We shouldn’t overlook the psychological distress that comes with inauthentic behavior,” says Maryam Kouchaki, a professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. Kouchaki and her team are engaged in research that links morality and authenticity.
Being authentic means being vulnerable, someone that is willing susceptible to error and harm. In other words, just real. Just human. According to Caroline McHugh, in a TEDx talk that is so extremely touching, “We all come complete.” She suggests, simply;
“Be good at being you.”
I’m not advocating for playing it safe all the time, or a risk-adverse life. Just an honest one. I’m not sure how to do X but I have passion, vision, and I’m willing to learn. This is a big difference from justifying, convincing, and straight up lying to people that you’ve got the chops to make it work.
Unfortunatly, many investors aren’t in the business of authenticity. But my feeling is the good ones probably have a pretty good authenticity radar. Anyways, your commitment to authenticity will likely outlast your commitment to your startup.
(Thanks Gus Tai for helping me wrap this one up!)