I saw a retweet on twitter the the other day from a literary agent that reprimanded newbie queriers for apologizing for their inexperience at querying and then gave the old “fake it ’til you make it” advice…all in caps.
My first thought was, “well, you sure missed an opportunity to practice grace.” Then this whole scenario played out in my head about the agent who gets frustrated by the same message all the time and the writer who is just trying to figure things out.
I’m not that agent. My inbox isn’t filled with the same apology energy over and over again. I don’t have to wade through the first paragraph of self-deprecation to get to the point. So I can’t pretend to know what she feels and I’m not here to criticize her in particular.
But I do have something to say about this age old advice. It sucks.
The person who goes into a job interview pretending to know things he doesn’t know is setting himself up for failure when the time comes to use those skills. Yes, he can learn them but how is he going to do that when he’s supposed to already know them? He can’t go to someone else and ask for help because he’s already billed himself as the expert. Maybe he can delegate but at some point he’s going to have to exercise some kind of authority in the matter and if he doesn’t have a full grasp on the situation and people are trusting that he does then he’s setting everyone up for failure. Not to mention, the self-proclaimed ‘expert’ now lives in fear of being called out as a fraud so he’s defensive of anyone who might question him even if all they want to do is help him. Trust me, I COACH those people who have built inauthentic lives and they’re defensive, suspicious, guarded and miserable.
But if he goes in knowing exactly what he’s good at and is willing to admit to a learning curve and a team that includes people who have the skills he doesn’t then he’s either building trust with the people who hire him and able to do the job he promised or he’s walking away from a job that will only bring misery to both sides of the table. In which case he cannot lose by being honest.
Same is true of a romantic relationship, a friendship, or any situation where you’re going to rely on others to be part of your life experience.
There are times when I kind of get the “fake it ’til you make it” advice. When you’re doing something bold and you want to squash some nerves you can use confident body language to change your own emotions and psychology in the moment. You can leave out the apology energy when you explain your deficits and play up your honest position as a strength, “I’ve been a writer my whole life I’m excited to be submitting my first queries ever and I look forward to improving in all areas of my writing career.” But for the most part, fake it ’til you make it is the blueprint for your own, personal house of cards.
There will always be people like that agent who are annoyed by the honesty but if that’s how they view authenticity how great will your relationship be with them? What if all they’re doing with you is faking it until they’re making it and you’re trusting them to be the expert?
Personally, I will always be as open and honest about my shortcomings as I will be about my strengths because I want to be in the power position of being able to ask questions, improve myself and include people in my circle who offer what I don’t. I will also always choose to work with that person who is honest with me in return. That honest beginning pours the foundation that will see us through the good times and the bad. There an immeasurable amount of strength in those who choose to make themselves vulnerable.
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