Mushfaking, Apprenticeship, and Faking It Till You Become It

How the idea of Discourse with a capital D and “faking it till you become it” can result in success.

Mushfaking; a cheat method, or a different path for one to master a Discourse. Discourse, devised by James Gee, and being a particular culture or skill you involve yourself in (a set of social practices), incorporates so much more than just speaking.

“forms of life that integrate words, acts values, beliefs, attitudes and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions and clothes.” (Gee 6–7)

It takes into account a variety of aspects that all help you “master” a particular skill. This idea to “fake it” has also been brought up and discussed by Amy Cuddy, author of the Ted Talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

She discusses that in order get past the stage of not feeling comfortable or “not belonging” you have to pretend to belong, and pretend to know what you’re doing. Both bringing up points as to how “faking it” is a plausible, yet easy way to enter a discourse.

There is a parallelism between Gee’s approach to a Discourse through apprenticeship or “enculturation” (where you learn through social practices or interaction) and non-verbals, as brought up in Cuddy’s Ted Talk.

Each require you to use tools, previous meta-knowledge and the ability to maintain an “alpha complex” (Cuddy 8:57) or confidence. Meta-knowledge being information brought to the table, or that can be applied to the current situation and an “alpha complex” being the ability to display confidence and dominance at all times. This is where Gee’s idea of apprenticeship can be applied, if you’re going to use an outside source or “fake” your way into a discourse you have to have someone or something help you. Only with that master and apprentice relationship do you have the needed requirements to mushfake and end up in a specific Discourse. Cuddy’s idea of the alpha complex is coupled with the assumption of dominance and testosterone,

“alpha males in primate hierarchies have high testosterone and low cortisol, and powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol” (Cuddy 8:57)

but Cuddy also points out that being an alpha isn’t only about being dominant, but the way you react to stressful situations, and how if you have this alpha aura, or pretend to have it you’re more inclined to succeed. With this complex someone can easily implement “mushfaking” or utilize a master and apprentice relationship as a way to transpierce a Discourse. Gee’s idea of a master and apprentice relationship,

where the master is teaching the apprentice the ways of the trade, in order to make the transition to master easier, the same way someone with an alpha complex will have more confidence coming into a place of power than someone with no confidence. With the knowledge of how “mushfaking” works ones cortisol, or stress levels could decrease, opening up room for deeper thinking and the ability to apply outside knowledge to inside problems. At the same time, testosterone levels could increase, giving the individual looking to enter a Discourse a “temporarily false” confidence.

Gee’s theory of how Discourses work begins with Primary Discourse, or the Discourse that gives you a “home-based sense of identity,” or a foundation. (Gee 8) He then believes that one can acquire Secondary Discourses when you reach school, and then throughout your life. For example; a Primary Discourse could be how your family uses utensils at the dinner table. Your Secondary Discourses are acquired through apprenticeship, such as the Discourse of a student. Gee states that “one can fall back on one’s Primary Discourse” (Gee 9) if they don’t become fully fluent in their secondary.

Using the “mushfake” or “fake it” method gives someone trying to enter a Discourse the opportunity to realize what aspects they need more information about, and what aspects they’ve mastered. Using the method of mushfaking allows the potential Discourse affiliate the opportunity to adjust the previous knowledge, or Primary Discourse to better suit the needs or requirements of the new Secondary Discourse. Gee states

“there are only fluent speakers and apprentices” (Gee 10)

if that is true Gee doesn’t consider this “mushfaking”.The idea of “mushfaking” is a step in apprenticeship. comes in with very little to no background or meta-knowledge, and begins to learn the ways of the trade on the fly. A step in finding information and useful tools in that trade is referred to as mushfaking.

The constant struggle when it comes to mushfaking or faking it till’ you become it is that you never truly know when you’ve mastered an aspect of a Discourse. Yes you are able to notice what areas you need work on and what you already know, but unless mushfaking is a phase and not a solid path you can never move out of the phase of not knowing.

On the other hand pretending or posing can help you utilize and gain outside sources that could be helpful in your future endeavors. The ability to “make do” shows the potential Discourse participant how much they can take on, giving them a sort of complex. Regardless of if they’re faking it, or not truly participating at the time, this complex gives off a confidence that allows the future participant to utilize all tools at their disposal and figure out the best way of entering a Discourse. This confidence complex, similar to the alpha complex talked about earlier,

can be linked to Cuddy’s idea of power posing, or just regular body stance in the face of others. She focuses on how changing your body stance and non-verbals can not only portray confidence to outside people, but to yourself as well. This boost of confidence could help tremendously when one is trying to mushfake their way into a Discourse. For example, her study of students in an interview scenario goes to show that the difference in success rates between those who exuded more confidence and those who didn’t was outstanding. Cuddy describes a scenario in her lecture about how we, (participants of a Discourse) should take just a couple minutes and power pose, or destress ourselves. That boost of confidence and sureness that comes along with power posing allowed the participants to think more clearly, answer more precisely, and draw on more information from outside sources than those who were nervous. This constant self-confidence boost enables people to believe that regardless of the fact that they’re faking it now, they will eventually be able to master a Discourse.

Becoming involved in a Discourse through “mushfaking” or “faking it till’ you become it” may seem like a cheat method, or an easy way out, but when you look at all the variables and aspects that come with mushfaking you can begin to realize that it is solely a different path you can take to mastering a Discourse. Mushfaking is a more well-rounded way of acquiring knowledge because of the extensive amount of research put into it. People who mushfake use outside sources and information to fill in the gaps of their own knowledge, and by using these outside resources they’ve not only gained more knowledge, but a different perspective on the Discourse and a connection and reference if they ever need help in the future.

“Mushfaking” or “faking it till you make it” allows you to step outside of the meta-knowledge you have and use others perspectives to get a well-rounded understanding of, and the ability to master the Discourse. The participant of a Discourse realizes that they must use outside help in order to master the Discourse, that’s not a sign of fraud, but of intelligence.

Gee, James Paul. Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction. Journal of Education Volume 171 (1989) 5–17 Print.

Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”. “”. TED Conferences LLC., Edinburgh, Scotland. June 2012. Web. September 18 2015.