Faking It


Some years ago there was an Italian doctor stationed in the small town of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Doctors were hard to come by and even harder to keep so folks were pretty happy to have him. He practiced there for over a year before it was discovered — when he was called on to do an emergency appendectomy — that he wasn’t really a doctor. He had gone to medical school for a year or two but never finished. He faked his diploma and took up residence, so to speak, in Inuvik.

People were shocked, of course, but at the same time generally agreed he was the best doctor they ever had — attentive, knowledgeable enough for everyday purposes and quick to send them south to Yellowknife if something serious cropped up. What more could you ask for than a genuine fake?

Clearly, this guy was smart, could do research on the fly and knew his limitations. Equally clearly he was able to fake the rest with great confidence. Fake it well enough that for over a year he was, for intents and purposes, a doctor.

There is a life lesson buried in here somewhere, one that a lot of alpha type males figured out at least sub-consciously some time ago. If you don’t know, pretend. In fact pretend so hard you actually believe in your own competence. Apparently this works. A lot of men succeed not because they are prepared but because they are prepared to act as if they were — at least until they can catch up. This ‘faking it’ has been postulated as one reason men have an advantage in competitive situations.

One study showed that women will look at job qualifications and if they don’t feel they meet the vast majority — say 80 or 90% — they won’t even apply. Men on the other hand have a lower pass mark — 50-60% — before they throw their name in the pool. That means they apply for a lot more jobs than they get interviewed for but, they figure, nothing ventured, nothing gained. All they need to do is fake their way through one process and they are all set. Better qualified women who would get the job if they were competing with ‘that’ guy aren’t even in the running because they screened themselves out.

Recently a friend of mine was lamenting that he wasn’t sure if he knew how to write or how to even be a writer. My wife — smart person that she is — suggested that he ‘fake it.’ Pretend you know how to write and start putting words on paper. I think she was a little tongue in cheek but he seemed to think it was a good idea (guy, remember) and felt inspired to get back to his work-in-progress.

Last week he announced that he had just sold his first novel.

Good advice, apparently. Fake it until you make it.

And that’s ten minutes.

2 thoughts on “Faking It

  1. At one point in my life I was training people to work in a profession that involved interacting with the public in wilderness environments. The people who were best for the job were often people who least enjoyed the company of other people, especially strangers to both them and the environment. “Fake it until you feel it” was the mantra we all used. Often it would actually turn out that they grew to enjoy the human interactions.


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