There is a common phrase that people often use when trying something new, starting a new job, or getting into something that maybe they are unqualified for:
“Fake It ‘Till You Make It”
My interpretation has always been, that this means that we should do our best to pretend like we belong until we “figure it out” and then, hopefully, we actually will belong. It may sound like I’m just trying to go against the grain here, and that is very possible, but I think there are a lot of things wrong with this approach.
For the sake of this blog, and based on the last post, “One Life To Live”, I’ll be approaching this “fake it ’till you make it” mentality from the standpoint of exploring and living out the multiple possibilities that exist for our lives.
As we try and determine an entirely new direction, work to add a new layer to our lives, or simply seek to branch out from our current path, I don’t think we should fake it until we make it. The last thing that we need to do is pretend to be something we are not, long enough to convince and ourselves that we actually are that thing that we have been pretending to be. If we do, we may end up forcing ourselves down a path that isn’t what we really want or need in our lives. There is no need to pretend as we map out who we want to be and where we want to go.
My encouragement for you, is not for you to fake it until you make it, but instead, to Try Before You Buy.
A Try Before You Buy approach has a number of advantages.
First of all, this mindset protects us from just leaping at the first thing we see. It’s very easy to mistake movement for growth. Often, we feel like in order to be growing, or succeeding, or getting better, that there needs to be a lot of activity taking place. Or when we feel stuck in a particular job, relationship, or situation in life, we often feel like we need to do something. And when we are in these places, we don’t always make the best decisions. What can happen, if we are not careful, is that we end up jumping from one bad situation to another. And we look up after a few weeks, months, or years, and realize that we don’t like where we are. So what do we do? We find something else to over commit to, without taking the proper time to fully vet the situation and determine if it is really a good move for us.
Try Before You Buy can help us avoid this state of over emotional activity for the sake of activity.
Another thing that this approach can do for us, is to help us take what we think or feel about a given situation and really test it out, to put some truth behind our hypotheses.
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, in their book, Designing Your Life, call it prototyping. It’s like running a test, to be sure what you are thinking about, actually works. It helps you recognize the good things and brings forth the flaws, in any new life change that you may be considering. We may find that the job that we wanted since we were a little kid, is very different in reality than what we always thought it would be. We may find that the person we admired from afar, and who we would marry in a heartbeat, couldn’t live up to our outsized expectations (or, high school relationships). Or maybe, the job, or place, or situation that we always knew we would hate, or just couldn’t handle, turns out very different than what we built up in our minds.
And it’s better to learn these things from a Try Before You Buy approach, than it is a Fake It ‘Till You Make It approach. When you try before you buy, you look at things with a curious, maybe even skeptical, eye. You measure out the pros and cons, you weigh out what works and what doesn’t work for you and your given situation. And then you make the best decision that you can, based on the information that you have gathered. When you fake it ’till you make it, in some of these situations, you can force them to fit, even when they don’t.
I’ve prototyped a few extra lives (remember, we get many) over the course of my journey. Here are a couple that didn’t pan out:
A number of years ago, I thought I might like to get into baking. Specifically, becoming a pie expert. Rather than selling my home, purchasing a commercial kitchen, and going all in on the path to becoming a baker, I decided to use the Try Before You Buy technique. So I started a blog, PiesbyBry (you may not believe this, but this current blog is a significant step up from that first effort) and began baking pies. My goal was one pie a week. I would dedicate a pie to someone I knew, and then tell a funny story about them and/or myself on the blog. This one didn’t last long. I was at a friend’s party when I first decided to start down this path. And despite all of the people laughing and carrying on telling me what a wonderful idea this was, very few people followed the blog. And nobody ever paid for a pie. I’m still a very capable baker of pies, but this was not something I needed to fully commit to.
On another occasion, I spent some time testing out whether or not I could become a rapper, or at least, someone cooler than my current self, which, wasn’t going to take much. So I decided to prototype an alter ego, going by the name, B-Fresh. I signed off on emails, B-Fresh. Not sincerely, or thank you, or take care. I just stopped writing whenever I got finished, and then…B-Fresh. Also, I started signing off in social situations the same way. So whenever I got ready to leave a room, or a group conversation, rather than saying “goodbye” or “see you later”, I just said, “Ya’ll B-Fresh”. It was a real hit, in a very, very small circle.
I was pretty close on this one. And I think there may still be a time when B-Fresh might make a comeback. But ultimately, I decided that the rapping game probably wasn’t the best path for me and my family. So I settled for the next coolest profession I could think of….a teacher.
I don’t know that I’ve been very clear on this post…
The point is, when you want to try something new, go in a different direction, or simply add on to your current life, it’s best to Try Before You Buy. Take this mindset of running some trial experiments, so you can test your hypothesis without (or at least, with less) emotion and thinking, and more experiences and truth. That way, you can make a decision that is more informed, and rooted in reality.
And remember, it works both ways. When you are really excited about something, Try Before You Buy, so you can be sure that it is something that you should really move on. There is no perfect situation, despite what we may build up in our hearts and minds. On the flip side, when you are really down on something, that may be something you are going to have to do for a stretch, Try Before You Buy. In these scenarios, you might have to prototype the new situation and intentionally search for those things that are good and doable and find something that you can enjoy. Almost always, things are not as good or as bad as we make them out to be ahead of time.
There is no need to panic when you end up in the “wrong” situation in your life, but I do think we need to use our 3.4 lives wisely. Try Before You Buy and you may find that you minimize the chances of ending up somewhere that you don’t want to be.