We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ’til you make it!” And the phrase rubs most of us the wrong way. While there’s a core of good advice in there, it’s all wrapped up in some pretty lousy concepts. Let’s take a look at the two concepts in this advice that are the most harmful: fakery and deception. {readmorelink}Read the whole article{/readmorelink}

Those may sound like the same concept, and if you look at the dictionary definition, you won’t find enough distinction to matter. However, I’m going to provide the definition I’m using for this discussion. If you don’t like the words I use, feel free to substitute something that fits better for your mind.

“Fakery” refers to the internal process the phrase engenders. “Fake it ’til you make it” directly asserts that the action you’re going to take is not about changing who you are, but how you look to others. Thus, every time we follow this advice, we’re reminding ourselves that we’re not being truly who we are, that we’ve not yet made it, and that we have to pretend to be someone we’re not. The biggest problem with this approach is that we’re constantly making choices based upon appearance, rather than being. Self-development is not a matter of looking successful, but of becoming the person who can experience a new level of success. Putting up a front does not accomplish this. Oddly, this is, in many cases, merely a matter of internal direction – but more on that in a minute.

The second major problem with “fake it ’til you make it” is that of deception. The phrase clearly (to most of us) implies doing things to hide your true nature from other people. As you can see, this is precisely tied to the problem of “fakery”, above. My distinction is that fakery refers to the interal process (how you see the situation) and deception refers to the interactive process (how you’re dealing with other people). Deception is the poorest of foundations upon which to build any relationship. Think of those professions we stereotype as untrustworthy. Why do we see them that way? Because we picture them as deceiving us. Do we want to do business with those people? Be their friends? Have them take care of important details for us? Of course not. So, why would you use deception as a part of a “success” approach?

Clearly, “fake it ’til you make it” is harmful to our internal development, as well as our relationships – both personal and business. But remember, in the first paragraph, where I said “there’s a core of good advice in there?” How can that be true of such a harmful bit of advice? Let me restate the advice in a clearer, more honest form:

Start being the person you want to become.

Now there’s no deception or fakery. It’s all about action intended to improve yourself. Let’s step back for a moment to build some foundation for the remainder of this lesson.

When we look at someone we consider successful in life, we see their action, behaviors, and habits, and we tend to think of those as the actions, behaviors, and habits that one adopts when one is successful. This is actually backwards. When we look at a successful person, we’re actually seeing (for the most part) the actions, behaviors, and habits that got them to that level of success. Now, to reach their level of success, it’s easy to see that we should start adopting some of those actions, behaviors, and habits.

So, find a role model for your success – you’ll likely need several. Make sure they’re good models. They shouldn’t have any serious flaws and should have some level of success in all areas of life. Now find a few actions to adopt and make your own. This will start you on the way to becoming the kind of person they are today, which is the kind of person it takes to reach the success they currently have.

If you want to be a kinder person, start taking kinder actions. If you want to be an action-oriented person, start taking proactive actions. If you want to be a decisive person, start making bold decisions. You’ll mess things up a bit at first, but you’ll almost certainly find that your mistakes are no worse than you were previously making. As you practice, you’ll improve your ability to do those things, and will become a better, stronger, more compassionate, or more whatever­ kind of person.

To get you started, here is a list of habits, traits, and actions I’ve personally observed in my mentors and other successful people:

  1. Make a special effort to let people know you care about their situation in daily discussions. Read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People to learn how to communicate this more effectively.
  2. Do a kind act for someone who will never know you did it. I had a girlfriend who never passed an expired parking meter without putting a coin in it. She never even knew – or cared – whether any of these people even noticed her action.
  3. Read daily. I recommend reading in four areas: personal development (relationships, etc.), professional development (technical knowledge), spiritual development (religion, philosophy, etc.), and leisure. That last category should replace some of your TV time.
  4. Be passionate. Successful people tend to be passionate about their areas of success. They have trouble tolerating those who are okay being mediocre, because they simply care too much to accept that.
  5. Be bold. Successful people take actions that others are not bold enough to take. They speak their minds appropriately, but sometimes at risk of offending someone.
  6. Be decisive. People who cannot make simple decisions quickly cannot make big decisions reliably. Practice making decisions quickly, starting with the easy ones – how long does it take you to pick your dinner at a restaurant?
  7. Ask for help. Success is not built upon a solo. You cannot be an expert in all areas of your business, so look to those who have expertise you don’t.
  8. Offer help. Helping others is one of the defining characteristics of most successful people.
  9. Teach something you do well. This is an extension of the previous action.
  10. Teach something you need to learn more about. There is no surer way to push yourself to learn more about a topic than to have to teach it to someone else.
  11. Think daily. Set aside time to sit with pen and paper, and think. The topic is less important than the habit.
  12. Drive a clean, fresh, shiny car. This doesn’t have to be new or expensive. Just vacuum it out, clean the surfaces, and run it through a good car wash at least weekly. It’s amazing the impact this can have on your attitude!
  13. Keep a daily schedule. Review it the night before. Organize it in advance at the beginning of each week and each month.
  14. Give a speech.
  15. Hire someone. Run the full hiring cycle, including conducting interviews. If you don’t have a business, hire someone to do something for you around the house, or to help out at some function. If you don’t need permanent help, hire a temp.
  16. Set goals. Then create action plans to achieve them.
  17. Create (and use) a mastermind group. These are discussed in many self-development books. The most referenced of these is Think and Grow Rich.
  18. Organize your workspace. It doesn’t have to be immaculate, but it must have a real method of organization.
  19. Close every project as quickly as possible. If you’re not going to complete it, mark it as “canceled” and file it appropriately. Open items weigh on your subconscious mind.
  20. Find a mentor. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and nearly every other successful business leader has at least one mentor. I currently have three.
  21. Attend a conference.
  22. Take a class.
  23. Dress like someone who’s successful. Your aim should always be to be one of the best-dressed in the room. Never let yourself end up in the bottom half of that listing. Find comfortable clothes that look good on you and make you feel like a success. This doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a tie, unless it does.

A caution: don’t do things that are foolish to look like a success – that’s right back to “fake it ’til you make it.” I saw a business owner advising his sales team to take their first decent paycheck and make a down payment on a BMW. That’s foolish fakery. Yes, you want to have a car that you feel good about (it’s hard to feel good in a 1973 Gremlin), but you still have to make wise business and financial decisions along the way.

Start today adopting successful action, behaviors, and habits today. Make them yours, and you will have begun the personal growth needed to become the successful person you have envisioned.