We’ve all heard it plenty of times: “Fake it til you make it.” But what does it mean to actually do that? Well, it can mean lots of different things. It can mean faking confidence in a new job to ease your anxieties on the first day. It can mean pretending you know exactly what you’re doing, even if you don’t have a clue. It can mean making up a story on the spot when it’s time to give a toast at a wedding and you’re stressing because your mind has gone blank.
Really, “fake it til you make it” has a ton of different meanings. A recent subreddit asked users to post their best “fake it til you make it story” and the stories that poured out are fascinating. They range from amazing to ridiculous to insane. I guess that’s the beauty of faking it ’til you make it…it can mean so many different things to so many different people.
Here are the best “fake it til you make it” stories out there.
I George Costanza’d my way into a job in high school.
I was looking for a new job and went to apply at a local movie theater. The general manager asked to interview me on the spot, which I wasn’t at all prepared for, but went with it anyway. This was like a Wednesday or Thursday night. The interview went well, and she told me she was going to be out of town this weekend, but she would let me know on Monday.
I didn’t want to wait, so the next day at school I got my work permit filled out and took it back. I dropped it off to another manager and told them she told me to bring this crap in. They asked if I could start the next day.
I ended up working there for over three years.
I’m an artist who works in the film industry. Some years ago my wife got pregnant (purposefully) and I had to try to find a way to make more reliable income while she was on Matt leave and for the foreseable future, as we knew we weren’t only having one. I also wanted to stay in film.
I got work as a Grip. Grunt work lugging things around set and building/setting up large bits of lighting gear. No clue what I was doing. I started off on big shows like the Flash and Arrow.
A friend got me work on a small set and only 13 days in to working as a grip, which I didn’t tell them, they made me the Key grip. Key is film talk for Manager. I was in charge of a whole department which is one half of the lighting team. Faked it until I made it!
Fast forward over 5 years. I have over 30 credits to my name as a key grip. I own an entire 5 ton trucks worth of gear that I rent out, which makes as much money per show as my wage did. My wife is back at work after having 2 kids and I’m a stay at home dad with consistant passive income and the time to continue to write and audition whenever I need.
I’d always been interested in programming. As a kid I tried to teach myself C and Java with mild success. Fast forward to the time I’m 24. I’m working as a piercing apprentice at a tattoo shop making $20/day a few days per week. I meet a girl, fall for said girl, girl ends up pregnant…
A few hours after the pregnancy test I’m applying for jobs on Craigslist and I find a PHP job a few minutes up the road. I’ve worked with PHP for maybe a few hours in my entire life time but it was a tiny company and the interview wasn’t technical. I lied through my teeth the entire time and get hired.
After being hired I tried to start learning PHP on the job. The owner of the company created his own PHP framework which was GOD AWFUL so I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. I got fired two weeks later.
In those two weeks on the job I made an honest effort to learn more about web design and development so I offered my “design” services to a local web design company for free so that I could learn. Walking home after being fired I called up the web design company and they ended up hiring me. I would learn on the job for a year or so and then take my skills to get more money somewhere else.
10 years later I’m the lead software engineer on a big project making just over 6 figures. If a pregnancy test hadn’t scared me to death that day I would still be working dead-end jobs to scrape up enough money for weed and booze.
My entire professional career. I “played with computers” growing up in so-far-as I knew how to turn one on, download a game, and play them very well. I knew next to nothing about building them, or troubleshooting them, usually depending on my friends to help when my second hand PC threw a shit fit.
Cut to me, fresh out of college with a waste of paper degree looking for a job. I get hired by an IT contractor, cause I knew a gal that knew a guy, with the understanding I needed to know the basics… I didn’t know shit. I made it up as I went along, googling the living shit out everything.
That was 10 years ago. I’m now a Systems Administrator.
Not me, but my cousin applied for a brand new restaurant job and didn’t get it. Her friend got the job and she was pissed she didn’t get hired. So her friend told her where/when orientation was, and she decided to “fake” getting hired til she “made it”. She went to orientation, all the training, introduced herself to all the staff, management, and made her presence known. After a couple of weeks working, everyone got their paychecks, except her…
She went up to management and was like “wth, everyone got paid but me…you’ve seen me working for the last two weeks!”
Management goes into the computer system and checks “that’s so weird you’re not in the system…I’m so sorry… must be a clerical error…we will get you in the system, and paid right away!”
And that’s how my cousin fake got hired til she made it. I wanna be like her when I grow up.
I taught a class on a specialty software program. I was learning the software myself and I was literally 1 class ahead of the people I was teaching.
This is a brilliant way to teach a class. I wonder how many of my teachers did this?
During college, I worked part-time as a deli clerk in a grocery store.
I had zero experience with deli items – didn’t know head cheese from salami, or provolone from muenster.
So, I’d explain to customers that I was new and ask them to point to items in the case that they wanted and what the sign indicated for the price per pound.
They always seemed happy to help out – especially when I gave them “free samples” from the slicing machine.
I was desperate for a job several years back so I wrote up this resume that was utter horseshit on a whim. Granted some of it was legit but a good 80% was me bullshitting. Amazingly enough, I got a call for an interview and by some miracle, they ended up hiring me and I worked for the place for 7 years before something I was actually qualified for opened up at another workplace. That bullshit resume saved me from ruin though so I always will look back in that crazy situation fondly.
Architecture student. During my sophomore year, someone asked me if I knew how to design, I could do sketches only at that time. I confidently agreed that I design, they gave me a job to design a family home, I didn’t know how to operate any CAD software and had a shitty computer.
Went ahead to learn CAD software basics bit by bit within two days which was just enough as a kickstarter to designing a family home. Went ahead to design within a month as I kept learning design software. The house was built and completed 2 years ago. I was very tense to looking at the finished product and holy moly I was surprised. My confidence spiked unbelievably. Since then I’ve been referred more than 3 times.
I had this file thing in elementary school where you have to put all your worksheets in a folder and my teacher will check it at the end of the year. Well…..I did not do it and convinced her that I handed in but she lost it. She said she will get back to me…and I’m still waiting.
One time I accidentally convinced a teacher that I handed in a worksheet. I did it and I thought I handed it in. I was convinced by myself that I handed it in. But then later I found it in my bag. I never told my teacher because I was too scared of her (she was a mean one). I got 80% on that worksheet.
A few years ago I started volunteering at my local animal shelter and would always sign up for a time slot before the shelter opened to the public so I wouldn’t have to deal with people. I kept getting assigned new volunteers to show them the ropes because my time slot was when it was quiet and there wouldn’t be interruptions. I really extremely didn’t want to deal with people, but I went ahead anyway because it meant I got my own kennel key.
I was nervous as hell and didn’t know what I was doing but plowed ahead anyway. Then I got the hang of it. Now, four years later, I’m one of the leads, I have access to restricted areas of the shelter, I’m one of only two volunteers allowed to update the animals’ notes on the shelter site, and I’m highly respected and considered a role model.
I’m still terrified. Proud, but terrified.
My first job as a programmer I didn’t know how to write a single line of code.
Was about 12 years ago.
I wanted to learn programming and I chose a hot new programming language – Ruby. I did a tutorial for Ruby on Rails (remember the one where you create an ecommerce store with a few lines, ehh?) but I had some problems running it on Windows so after I figured it out I documented it on some forum. A guy messaged me that writing a guide shows initiative and they are looking for a Ruby guy. I never say no to anything. We Skyped, the guy liked me, and I got the job the next day. Remote. The salary shocked my 19-year-old self.
The company was a mess at first. It was a new project. I was pretending to work for the first 3 weeks while in reality, I was learning for 12+ hours a day using books and tutorials.
Somehow I winged it and stayed with them for 3 years. I actually became proficient with Ruby, Python, and JS along the way.
My business started by me just saying yes I can do that, I can supply that for you. I had no idea that they would be willing to hear me out. 5 years later and I’m now supplying desks and office equipment to over 120 offices in London. You really can go far if you just say yes
Last weekend I was at a wedding dance and they played “The Git Up”. No one knew the dance, including myself, but liquid encouragement kicked in and I lead the entire wedding dance (50+ people) in a dance that I completely made up on the spot.
Everyone was so impressed after that I “knew all of the moves”, that I didn’t tell anyone any different.
Social Anxiety. I was always the quiet guy up until a few years ago. I decided I was tired of not having friends and I started faking confidence and talking to everyone. In the beginning, I was dying inside and felt like I was walking on glass. Now I don’t know when to shut up and can talk to just about anyone.
Yes, I had a similar experience. I always had friends but found it difficult to engage with people outside my small circle. I used to get such bad social anxiety that I would throw up before every major social engagement, like parties, and sometimes in situations where I knew there was definitely nothing to fear, like going to lunch with my friends.
I decided I needed to do something about this, so I started paying attention to how a friend of mine who was very good in social situations conducted herself, and just copied her. After a while, I started appearing confident, though I still had the anxiety, and eventually the anxiety went away almost completely (it still happens sometimes, but I rarely throw up – like, maybe once a year in a really daunting situation).
Now people always remark on how confident I am and I always make a point of telling them it’s learned rather than innate.
I was like this in college, moved home from my first college because of depression. Went to a community college through the end of my second year. When I moved away again I ended up assigned an apartment on campus where the other girls already knew each other.
I had been mainly hiding in my room like I always did previously, but the first weekend I could hear them having drinks and getting ready to go out. I forced myself out of my room to “use the bathroom”. They asked if I wanted to go and I knew if I said no then that they wouldn’t continuously invite me so I went. I ended up loving every minute of my last 2 years of college being that open outgoing person that doesn’t come naturally to me. Now if only it were that easy to make friends again as a stay at home parent.
Not even going to lie, I used to trace other people’s art SO OFTEN as a young artist (like 8-10) but now, I have that guidance of technique with me when I create my own pieces.
A while ago I decided to stop complaining about environmental destruction, climate change, etc, and ACT. So I started planting trees.
Keep in mind I had no training in this, I never even gardened before. I considered myself a “brown thumb”. I researched how to do it and it seemed pretty easy. But everything died. I’d plant a tree exactly how they said, but it wouldn’t survive. I had to baby them so much, just to get them through their first year, and maybe half would make it. But I just kept planting and planting and “faking” I knew what I was doing.
Then I came across stuff by Dr. Elaine Ingham on soil science and it kind of changed everything for me. It made a whole lot of sense. Ecosystems transition from deadland, to weed pit, to grassland, to brushland to a forest. As they do, the soil microbiology changes from dead soil to bacterial dominated soil, to fungal dominated soil. So the correct way to plant trees is actually to transition the soil to forest soil as fast as possible.
Nature takes thousands of years of weeds dying and then grasses dying and soil life building and building, to a small woody shrub, which then eventually dies, and NOW it changes. NOW everything changes. Woody material on the ground means FUNGUS can move in. It’s game over at this point, and you will transition to a forest now. So the correct way to plant a tree is to speed yourself to this point by dropping woodchips on the ground and letting the soil chemistry change. After a few months (or even better, a year), NOW plant your trees into the environment they want to live in.
Well, that changed everything, and now I go around planting mini starting forests everywhere on my land, in wild places, abandoned lots, etc. I’ve seen little pockets of life I’ve planted turn from a few trees to a small thicket. At this point, it’s unstoppable and the land heals.
It’s an incredibly rewarding hobby, but one you must take very seriously. Anytime you plant something, you set in motion wheels of change, so you must know what you are planting. For this reason, I stick to local native trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers. Things that exist all around me. That’s good for many reasons, the least of which isn’t free genetic material (seeds) to make this hobby 100% free.
What is really rewarding though is driving to work and seeing a bird perched on an apple tree that I planted, in a cluster of life with bees buzzing around the apple, haskap and lovage and borage and strawberries and asparagus, clover, fruit tree guild. Looking and seeing apple saplings bursting up through the sweet cicely. The ecosystem has its foothold in now and will replicate itself, sequestering carbon and healing the soil LONG after I’m gone.
So I started as someone who considered themselves a “brown thumb”, and with a little action and knowledge seeking, I now have pockets of life all around my community that are expanding and growing, that I was the catalyst for creating. That’s a legacy right there. And that’s how we reverse climate change and give our children a world worth living in.
Graduate school (doctoral program). Anyone who has endured this pain understands that the transition from undergraduate to graduate training can be very much intimidating and elicit imposter syndrome. Everyone in my cohort was faking it till making it, but in that process of stress and class and practica and comps and writing and research and teaching and learning – you eventually make it. But it’s a bitch getting there. And every day early on feels pretty fake.
Just gotta’ get your mental health right, get your physical health right, get your social support right, make sure to keep your hobbies up, try to research something you’re marginally actually interested in, establish good relationships with faculty, your cohort, your PI, etc., trust in your self-efficacy, keep grinding, faking it, and doing the best you can…until you come out the other side all the wiser for it. The competence and confidence will come, but not without the sacrifice of anxiety and time put in.
A lot of people think doctoral programs are about intelligence. Sure, to some extent, but not nearly as much as people think. It’s really about persistence, determination, commitment, resilience, and grit. The process will test you, and break you. But you will grow, and you can succeed.
I dropped out of high school in 10th grade. I hated school with a passion. I did get a GED.
I started working retail and found I really liked managing projects and eventually people. I ended up leaving retail for a call center job in a fairly large company.
Within 4 years I was running a marketing division. I had no F’ING clue what marketing was or anything. I’m just good at getting people to trust me and I’m very creative.
I got bored there and somehow got myself into another marketing role at an even bigger company.
5 years later I’m the CMO.
Honestly, being happy and social.
Going into high school I was in a super bad place, I was treated very poorly throughout elementary and middle school and essentially was a social outcast for a long while.
In order to make friends, I faked being a social and outgoing person since I had a fresh start with different people.
Now that’s actually the way I am, very social and friendly, and willing to talk to anyone. It’s tricky to come out of that shell but you get there eventually.
A few years ago, my class had to write an essay about an important moment in our lives and read it in front of the whole class. When it was my friend’s turn, he went up and did his speech, like normal. The teacher asked him to turn it in, and he said he didn’t have it. Turns out that he never wrote one and just made it up on the spot.
I was on the stage for a hypnotist and didn’t get hypnotized but I decided to go along with it.
Maybe that was part of the plan the whole time…
My undergrad major required a senior project. The Honors College program I was in also required a senior project. Because my major was a pretty common one, the major and the Honors College allowed students in my major to combine and do one project instead of two.
The project for my major required 400 hours of work/participation with a mentor, and the presentation of the final project. I was also required to present my project in 2 public forums in order to graduate. Not only did I not get the hours needed, but I also just DIDN’T PRESENT MY PROJECT ANYWHERE.
Because I was split between my major and Honors College, I don’t think anyone took responsibility for me, and I graduated no problem. Still my best act of mediocrity to date.
The marketing manager left the company I worked for. As the youngest person on staff, management asked if I knew digital marketing and could maintenance the website…I said, “Oh yeah I know all about that!”
Knowing absolutely nothing, I proceeded to Google everything, SEO, Paid Search, HTML, etc.
Fast forward 10 years and I am the VP of a prominent digital advertising company and responsible for record company high revenue! I keep up on industry trends and I always look to see how I can better understand the technology.
I was kicked out of college in 2008 and was desperate for a job. I ended up almost entirely lying my ass off on my resume to get an interview at an apartment property for a maintenance tech. I didn’t even know how to swing a hammer, but I was desperate. I would go to fix something and hide in a closet watching YouTube videos until I could figure it out. After a while, I discovered I really enjoyed repairing appliances and was good at it. Eventually, I learned a bit and used that to get another job, learned a bit more, got another, etc etc.
Fast forward 11 years and now I’m certified for n HVAC and appliance repair and have a fantastic job in nonprofit housing in a field I never knew I could even do. Sometimes you have to do what it takes to succeed. No regrets.
I quit my job and road-tripped all of North America over 4 months to finally end up on the west coast. I had never been to California before and it just felt like this is where I want to live. I was supposed to go back to Michigan, but every day I’d wake up and say to myself, let’s stay another day (because it was amazing).
I started going to events and socializing, making new friends, upon being asked I’d say I live here, every time. Got to the point where I had made really good friends (closer than the ones I had back home), I started interviewing, and landed a sweet job, moved here for real and never ended up going back!
So many “fake it til you make it” stories. Some are definitely more intense than others!
Share this with your friend with the best “fake it til you make it” story!
Love these stories of faking it ’til you make it? Well, stay tuned for stories of people who just straight up FAKED IT. To doctors. Yeah… I know.