Have you heard this expression before? ‘Fake it till you make it.’
It’s the worst. It’s the worst advice you could give someone… or at least, very close to it!
Here’s the setting for my first encounters with this terrible advice: I’m 2 days removed from college graduation, starting my new job at a big investment firm in a big city. In my first couple of weeks, I’m told to “fake it till you make it” a handful of times. I’d hear this phrase throughout the next year or two as I was training to enter the business, or as I was trying to understand the products I was selling, or as I was prepping for a big meeting.
I get it.
“Put on the confidence that you may or may not actually have, and act as if you have it. Act as if you’ve been selling for years, and go into that sales meeting with all the confidence in the world, by faking it, till you make it.”
That would have made actual sense. That’s something that I could’ve gotten behind.
But that wasn’t context at all. I never understood it to mean it that way, and it wasn’t delivered even remotely close to that context.
The context was: Act successful. Drive a nice car. Wear a nice suit. Sell stuff you don’t fully understand and don’t worry about understanding it. Pretend you’re smarter. Put on a show.
Absolutely the worst advice I have ever received.
Now, I should preface this by saying that I think you should have confidence in yourself. But, having confidence in yourself and faking it till you make it, are two completely different things. I think that faking your attitude and intention might be productive. Next time you’re mad, or sad, just force yourself to smile for a period of time. You’ll find that it’ll be hard to stay mad, when you’re smiling; even if you’re faking your smile.
There has been plenty of research done to suggest that simply by changing your body posture (sitting up taller, or putting your shoulders back) can actually increase hormone levels in your body, causing you to seem more confident than you may actually feel.
So yes, I do think there’s something to ‘Faking it Till you Make it’, with some of these things… but that’s not what was asked of me and not what we’re talking about here.
What we are talking about is not being YOU. We’re talking about the pressure to be something other than your true self. To truly fake it. To pretend. Got it?
I tell you this, because the same is true for your money… The same is true for YOUR life.
DON’T FAKE ANYTHING
Be you. Stop looking at your neighbor and thinking, “they got a new car… I should get a new car.”
You see, we are obsessed with keeping up with Joneses. I was recently quoted in Forbes. I was asked what my best advice is for 20-year olds looking to invest. My advice wasn’t technical. It wasn’t about what stock to buy, or how much bitcoin to buy. It was to forget FOMO: ‘Fear Of Missing Out.’ It is ruining people’s lives. You can find the great article and my quote in the article link below:
“Don’t try to keep up with Joneses… or the Kardashians, says Jamie Pomeroy” “Tune out the distractions and tune into solid advice to drive you to find money to start investing in your future…”
My point is that there is so much noise out there. Your Instagram feed is filled with people doing things like going to Thailand playing with those captive elephants or having one of the elephants paint a picture. You think, “I should go to Thailand.” Someone mentions it, and you’re roped in. You don’t have the money, so you charge it. You’re faking it. Newsflash: you’re not going to ‘make it’ by faking it, the way that I’ve described.
Am I just making this up? Or might there be some hard facts to back up the claim that MOST people are faking it.
The average American has $16,000 of credit card debt, according to Bloomberg
26% of Americans have no emergency fund at all, according to MoneyUnder30.com
The average new car payment is around $479/month, according to Bankrate
The average American owes $27,141 towards auto loans, according to The Motley Fool
Most Americans can’t cover a $500 surprise expense, according to CBS News
There’s a whole lot of faking it going on out there.
Ever get a raise, or a commission, or some type of increase in your income? It could even be completely unexpected. Either way, you get a bump in your income. Here’s typically what happens when someone gets an increase in their income: That thing you’ve had your eye on to buy, all of a sudden, becomes ‘affordable.’ That service you’ve been thinking of subscribing to, all of a sudden, seems doable. When someone receives an increase in their income, instead of saving that extra money or paying down debt with it, they increase their lifestyle expenses. It usually starts just one purchase at a time. Then over a period of time, the cost to live their life, increases by an amount equal to, or more, than the rise in their income. I’ve seen this over and over again. Most people don’t necessarily make the conscious decision to do this. They passively allow it to happen, because they didn’t have a plan. Their lifestyle expenses (the amount it costs for them to live their life), raised right up to their new income amount. That is lifestyle inflation.
Do you know a surefire way to experience lifestyle inflation? Giving in to ‘fake it till you make it.’ Feeling the need be someone you’re not, or to act like you can afford expensive things, creates this idea that you’re not enough. That there’s always something else you need to buy. Don’t give in to it. Don’t fall for the trap.
My wife and I have been guilty of this at times, and it sucks. We’ve vowed to each other, that we’d much rather be financially sound and appear broke, than actually be broke, but look well-off.
We need more genuine people, living genuine lives, living life on their terms, living life on their financial terms, intentionally, and without judgement.
I know it’s tough to avoid FOMO. We want to be involved in the fun things going on around us. But the glossy image displayed by all our ‘friends’ online, are just that… they’re glossy. We don’t see what it took to get there. We don’t know if they took on debt to go on that trip. We don’t know if they are financially stable. We don’t know if they are barely affording their amazing home. We don’t know if they are actually happy. All we see is that glossy image on social media, with a great filter, showing them doing something amazing… and we want some of that. I get it. Like I said, I’m guilty of that too and am continually working on it.
So, it’s great that we now know about the detriments of ‘Fake it Till You Make It,’ but what are some ways that we can actually avoid it BEFORE the lifestyle inflation kicks in?
Let’s take a look:
Mind your own business
Stop scrolling social media. Look, I love social media as a tool to engage with real human beings. I love being able to keep in touch with old friends. But I’m proactive about it, free from mindless scrolling. I’d encourage you to stop the mindless scrolling too. I’ve noticed that in my own life, I would scroll Facebook if I was either bored or avoiding doing something productive. I’d scroll and notice all the things that people were doing, the vacations, the clothes, the stuff, the adventures. I usually didn’t even know who these people were! I’d begin to catch myself thinking, “that vacation looks amazing…” and not it a positive way. For a split second I’d be sad, or mad, that I wasn’t on that vacation, and I’d shift to an envious, ungrateful place. I didn’t like it at all. I hear of people doing this same thing. Looking at other people’s lives on social, and getting to a place of ungratefulness for their own lives. That’s not productive. You know what is a productive way to use social media? Join a debt-payoff private Facebook group that will give you actual and amazing tips and inspiration to pay off your debt! Or, like and follow an awesome personal finance blog (cough… cough…) like this one that will continually inspire you to live YOUR version of a great life, financially free, full of adventure and intentionally. There are a ton of personal finance bloggers and groups out there on social media that provide inspiration and great money tips. Having that constant source of motivation can go a long way and help keep you on track to actually accomplish your goals! Which brings me to my next point…
When you know what is important to you, where you want to go in life, and you have those clearly defined, the short-term distractions that come up become much less impactful to your life. Setting goals is a great way to remind yourself of what is actually important to you. They serve as a constant reminder of what you and your family want to accomplish. Set financial goals, personal goals, family goals, and fitness goals. If you had clearly defined financial goals, and reminded yourself of those goals each day and had buy-in from your spouse or significant other, wouldn’t you be far less tempted to splurge on a new pair of sunglasses you saw modeled on your Instagram feed? Or wouldn’t you be much less tempted to use your credit card to charge a trip to Vegas with your friends, if you were constantly reminded of your goal to buy your first home? The same is true for losing weight. If you want to lose weight, first determine how much you want to lose (set a goal!) and constantly remind yourself of that number. Work towards that number and make sacrifices to get there.
I’ve found that setting clearly defined goals help people achieve financial goals much, much quicker than those that don’t set goals. You know what else happens when people set financial goals? They don’t have to Fake it Till They Make It! They can live their lives in a genuine and driven way, because they’re not trying to live up to someone else’s standards.
Lastly, as you’re setting goals and working towards them, it’s important that you share those goals with someone who you care about, and who cares about you.
Do Life Together – Have an Accountability Partner
When you’re trying to accomplish something that takes some grit, tell someone about it. A solid friend, or a spouse or a significant other will help to keep you accountable to the goals you set, and will hopefully help prevent you from Faking It. Here’s the catch with this: if your friends are ENABLING you to fake it… ditch em. First, have a conversation with them. Tell them that you think you’re making some bad decisions or that you’re unhappy/uncomfortable, and that that you think they are encouraging you or enabling you. If their actions don’t stop, and are driving you further and further into debt… ditch em. I have to believe that there are plenty of people out there who will encourage you, keep you accountable, and will be there when you need them. If you can’t find someone like this, don’t be afraid to look online in some groups in Facebook. I’m personally apart of some awesome private groups on Facebook, filled with encouraging, motivating people. The scary thing with this ‘ditch em’ mantra, is that I think this applies to jobs too. If your job or work environment is forcing you to fake it, then you need to start with a frank conversation about it. Address it head on. Then, if nothing changes, consider your options. Don’t be afraid to look for other opportunities if the job that you’re giving large chunks of your life to, is asking you to pretend to be someone that you’re not.
Head Down & Do Work – Hustle
My last piece of advice, or just words of motivation, are to just put your head down and do some work. Forget ‘Fake it Till You Make’ it! Just figure out what you want to accomplish, then put your head down and do work that will get you closer to that reality. There’s too much looking around, comparison, and wishing going on. Not enough grit. Okay, I’m preaching to myself here a little bit, and I’m okay with that! But seriously, figure out what you want, then work at it without looking at what your competition is doing. Have you seen that classic picture of Michael Phelps winning his 20th gold medal in the 200m butterfly? Phelps is looking straight at his target, straight ahead. His competitor (Le Clos, from South Africa who beat him in this even 4 years earlier) is glancing over at him, trying to figure out how far ahead Phelps is… Le Clos is a stroke behind Phelps. The mindset says it all. Focus on you and what’s ahead of you. Forget the noise all around you. There is a meme that was circling the internet of this moment with Phelps. It was a picture of the two swimmers in this moment, and read, “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.” There might be something to that.
In all, I urge you to forget ‘Fake it Till You Make it.’ It’s such bad advice. I understand if you need to take portions of it to help you be more confident in certain situations, or if you need it to muster up the courage to do something productive. But don’t fake your lifestyle. Don’t put on a show. Don’t pretend to be someone else. Don’t mislead people through your ‘faking.’ Be genuine. Embrace your insecurities and your shortcomings. Play to your strengths and just be you. The market will respond well to the genuine you, not a glossy one, trying to impress people you don’t know. The world needs more genuine people and I hope that you’ll be one of them.
What do you think? Have you ever received advice like this? Ever experience Lifestyle Inflation?
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