On being a hack, a fraud

I’m at my kitchen table, alone in my apartment tonight, typing away at my laptop with five Evernote notes open, all on different topics, each one a possible candidate for the Generator newsletter. I feel that I owe you all a great piece this time around because I missed last week due to backpacking in Big Sur.

Yet with all of these drafts/topics being 90%–99% complete, I feel that I’m at a loss for words on what to share with you all.

Perhaps I’m in a funk. Perhaps I’m in need to take a step back and focus on what’s important. What “important” is is still in question. Or is it?

Perhaps I know what’s important. Perhaps I know all of those Evernote notes are important for me to share, but I feel that I’m not quite ready to hit that big scary Publish button.

Perhaps it’s because once I hit Publish on Medium this post will find it’s way to you and now I’ve labeled myself as “Marc, the expert in ___.”

Perhaps I took on this weekly newsletter/writing endeavor acting as if I know what the fuck I’m doing/talking about yet you will all see through me… see that I’m a hack. A fraud.

Perhaps we’re all frauds… all hacks.

Do any of us really know what we’re doing? In work? In life?

I think about this often. I think that the above statement is true. We’re all hacks… hacking, stealing, faking our way down some path we think we need to go down in order to achieve a goal we think we need to reach in order to feel a feeling we think we need to in order to please a group of people we think we need to please.

Perhaps? Perhaps.

Does any young designer know what she or he is doing right out of school? Does any CEO know what she or he is doing leading a company? Does anyone in any field know what she or he is doing, doing the thing they are tasked with doing?

We place bets on our actions. We take risks on completing tasks based on what we know and we cross our fingers we accomplish tasks on things we don’t know but fake (I mean work) our way through. How many of you have said “Yes!” to a job without knowing exactly how to do it?

And if we have the skills and talent to help us complete the task at hand (along with a little luck) then we’re good to go. Done. On to the next…

But, when those risks don’t work out, then that’s when shit hits the fan. That’s when we feel like a failure, when we feel lost on that path, that we’ve missed the goal, that we feel those “not so great feelings” and we’ve disappointed the group we’re in.

Is this normal? Is this part of being a creative professional? They don’t teach you this is design school.

If I had to admit, I’d admit that I’d fucked up so many times on so many levels (even recently) that it’s embarrassing. I’ve had to admit to people (more specifically to my students) that I have it all figured out. That I know all the answers.

Perhaps I know answers, but not all answers. When does one graduate from being a hack to being an expert? Is Richard Branson an expert or a hack? What about Marissa Mayer? What about Barack Obama?

Perhaps I know enough to get me by and that is all that matters. I can share what I know now to those who are willing to listen to help prevent them from making similar mistakes. Is that enough to make me an expert? Perhaps.

I’d admit that I’ve gotten lucky in my professional career countless times and that I should be playing the lottery with the streak I’ve been given.

Don’t get me wrong. The things I’ve learned the last few years have been valuable and instrumental in my growth as a professional. And I use this knowledge and experience in my work day-in and day-out.

Yes. Doing a lot of jobs well and gaining positive experiences will ensure a smoother, easier path in a career (and life), and will make us smarter in terms of making better decisions down the road, which will help us become experts. But again, when do we graduate from being a hack to being an expert? Are all experts “experts”? Or are some experts hacks?

Might we all be faking it, hacking our way towards something we think we want to reach on things we want to be experts in so others can look at us and wonder, “Wow! That person knows what she/he is doing. I want to be like them.”

Am I alone in this feeling? Am I the only one feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing?… that I’m “faking it to make it”?
Or perhaps I’m an expert being naive in my own knowledge? Not sure yet on how all of this plays out in the path that I’m on.
Or perhaps I’ve had a rough few days and I’m just taking my frustration out in this newsletter?…

[Clicking the Publish button… now.]

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