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Have you heard the saying, ‘fake it until you make it’?

I first heard the phrase about ten years ago from the owner of a start-up chauffeured car service. He had just the two cars but he’d given the company a elite-sounding name, used a virtual receptionist service and set up a dummy business address (he was actually operating from his home).

His belief was that, if clients thought his business was more prestigious and well established than it was, it would result in more business for him. In other words, ‘faking it’ was a short-cut to ‘making it’.

I was thinking about this the other day when I started reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. It’s one of those books that everyone either enthuses about or derides, so I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.

I’ll reserve judgement until I finish it but one thing in the first chapter did rekindle a memory of something I’d read before. This is it: 

“If you are asked by a researcher to move your facial muscles, one at a time, into a position that would look sad to an observer, you will report feeling sadder. If you are asked to move the muscles one by one into a position that looks happy, you will report feeling happier.”

In other words, if you ‘fake’ an emotion physically, you actually begin to feel it.

This is a concept that many psychotherapists use to help their patients. They believe that, if you act like the person you want to become, you’ll begin to become like it in reality. So, if you want to get more work done, you need first to behave like a productive person. If you want more friends, you need to behave like a friendly person. If you want to be confident, you need to behave like a confident person.

So does this mean ‘faking it’ means you ‘make it’?

Not necessarily.

Researchers with an interest in this question have found that faking it doesn’t work if you do it to impress other people. This study found that people who wore luxury clothing or Rolex watches to boost their self-worth ended up feeling bigger failures.

The key, then, seems to be to adopt the behavioural traits of the person you want to become, not the material signs of success.
Faking it as part of an effort to actually be better can work. Faking it to appear better to others leads to failure.

So what does this mean when translated to business?

My guess is that instead of putting your efforts into appearing to be a business that has lots of clients, great customer service, reputation and so on, you’ll be much better off creating a business that behaves in a way that attracts clients, actually gives great customer service and is forever growing its reputation.

As for the man with the chauffeured car service, he’s still got two cars – after a decade.

Which, to me, suggests that acting the part is no substitute for actually becoming it.

How can THP help?

We can advise on all business continuity queries and payroll requests, if members of your team are taking time away from the business.

Come and visit us at one of our offices in Cheam,  ChelmsfordWanstead, and Saffron Walden or call us at our head office on 020 8989 5147.

Avatar for Ben Locker
About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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