Fake It Until You Make It?

Journeys in Construction

Fake It Until You Make It?

Growing up to be an airplane pilot.

“Fake it until you make it,” is a common saying these days. Depending on how it’s meant and interpreted, that can be a good or bad idea. To some people, that means to practice until achieving success. To others, it just means faking it and fooling people.

You wouldn’t want to find out that the pilot of your airplane is faking it. You want to know that the pilot is trained, experienced, and has a level of competence among the best in the world.

I suppose if you’re a sales person who has yet to make a sale, there’s some value in faking it. Before you’ve made your first sale, you can quickly learn some basic sales techniques and fake it by projecting confidence. That can be enough to succeed, and if you continue to improve with practice, you might make a career that way.

If you’re faking your competence as a builder, engineer, or project manager… Please don’t! It’s very risky to yourself and others. Put your time and effort into learning to be the best that you can be.


Trust is crucial for long-term success. I’ve seen that someone can manage a profitable project by applying less-than-trustworthy methods, but after a while, that person will run out of people who trust and are willing to work with that person.

The absence of trust is a root cause of dysfunction in a team, according to Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Making a team functional and cohesive requires courage and discipline from the leadership of a competent manager.

The best managers lead by example. They communicate clearly, without a hidden agenda. They delegate not only work and responsibility, but also hold themselves and others accountable. They support and empower their team, providing opportunities for others to rise as they improve. All of this builds trust.

Growth Mindset

If a person wants to be the best they can be, then a commitment to personal growth is necessary, according to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Some people have a fixed mindset about some aspects of their character or talents, believing that they cannot improve, but research shows that many limitations are self-imposed.

A person who believes that they can improve, and makes an effort to do so, likely will to a greater extent than someone who does not believe so. A growth mindset thrives on challenges and uses failures as lessons for improvement. Sharing this mindset with team members can help also help them to grow and improve. This is a key to effective leadership.


Perseverance and passion for long-term goals, or “grit,” can be a deciding factor for successful outcomes, as Angela Duckworth pointed out in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. There is much more to her research, but it can be summarized in these two equations;

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement

The point is that it is not enough to be naturally talented or to learn skills, but effort is also necessary. Using one’s strengths, as well as improving one’s weaknesses, are keys to great success.


Some get by and even do very well faking it. For example, there is an industry of consultants who just teach other consultants how to make money as consultants, and so on, kind of like a pyramid scheme. However, many people who are experts in their respective fields know better than to trust those people.

To be the best you can be, don’t fake it. Build trust, commit to personal growth, set goals and push toward them, as well as encouraging others do so. You will find great success in this way.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. 
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. 
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. 
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. 
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 
The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

— Calvin Coolidge


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