Convention tells us that we have to be great at something before seeking out opportunities, similar to how an artist must have written great music before seeking to publish it, or how an athlete must stand out in their local league before considering going pro. This could not be further from the truth.
The nature of success is much more subtle. Common tales seem to omit one particular narrative. They seem to imply that one simply becomes great by pursuing linear growth, achieving a material gain that they then market, and trusting that the system will undoubtedly reward their merit.
However, when looking at the experience of our icons, we find that their trajectory was far from predictable and far from linear.
Fake it till you become it.
Let’s be clear I don’t mean this in the irresponsible and abrupt way of making false claims. I mean this in the calculated yet self-aware way, which can have a profound effect. In short, by exuding a particular skill, you can actually develop it.
When I was pursuing music professionally, I had to sell myself as a great performer. Even before I could confidently say I was one. Opportunity is all about perception. In my case, I had to be perceived as better than my competition, I had to make calculated claims of being able to draw a crowd of a certain size (even when I had doubts) with relentless confidence, or being able to perform at X standard (which I certainly needed more practice to attain).
It was only thanks to these perceptual tricks that I was able to step up incrementally to higher and higher platforms and access more chances to prove myself. I was given many of these opportunities because people believed in the promise of what I could deliver. I had to fake it, and then deliver. I had to fake it, prove myself, and thus, become it.
In a similar sense, when performing in front of crowds around the world there’s a certain expectation that you are invincibly confident. Let me tell you one thing, I wasn’t. I was seen as confidence because I had conditioned myself to believe that if I was perceived as confident, that this would yield better opportunities. However, an interesting thing began to occur. The more that I would put myself in situations that demanded that I meet certain expectations, the more that those qualities began to emerge organically and, later on, effortlessly. I was beginning to become and embody the qualities which I had to original fake.
Regardless of how you feel internally. When you step on stage, the sheer constraint and demanding nature of the situation forces you to fulfill your role, and thus you grow. Seek to put yourself on-stage, whatever that stage is for your particular goals.
After meeting many artists, I can say that we all went through the same thing. There is always a bit of uncertainty and performance anxiety. This is natural. But it is through setting yourself up for situations that demand certain qualities from us that when it comes time to perform, we believe, we grow, we thrive, we become.
My lesson through these times was one of embracing situations that would challenge me. In essence, faking having the confidence, but it was thanks to these instances that I was able to develop true confidence and grow into a better version of myself.
My story is not an outlier. When evaluating the track record of those who we consider being great in our lifetime we see similar parallels. Steve Jobs in his early days promised to deliver 50 Apple 1 computers to a small shop before they were even developed. Elon Musk continues to make similar claims that his companies have to stretch themselves to achieve.
My advice is simple, go out there and fake it. As counterintuitive as it may feel, fake the confidence you want to have as if you already had it. You will find that as with the athlete trying to make it into the pro-leagues, confidence, and any qualities you seek, are ultimately skills you must train.
Fake it, long enough, often enough, and you will become it.