Why ‘Fake It Until You Make It’ is Bad Business Advice

We've all heard the common catchphrase 'fake it until you make it.' It sounds good. But consider this: does it make sense?

“Just fake it until you make it!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard well-meaning people utter this common catchphrase. It sounds good. But consider this: does it make sense? Many people – including myself at one point — believe this to be a solid business strategy. Interestingly enough, it is an adage more commonly infused in entrepreneurship conversations. Rarely do I hear it used in connotation with other career paths.

Consider this with me:

  • If you hire a mechanic to fix your brakes would you be copacetic after learning he plans to fake it until he makes it?
  • If you require a neurosurgeon, how would you react if she said she plans to fake it until she makes it?
  • And if you hire a litigator to represent you in a court of law – is it okay if he fakes it until he makes it?!

Many of you would answer “No!” on all three accounts. So why is this common catchphrase so readily acceptable in the entrepreneurship ecosystem?


The Problem with Bad Business Ideologies

Your ideology — conscious and unconscious ideas that constitute your goals, expectations, and actions – is a powerful thing. It sets precedence for your vision, your worldview and when interlocked with business — it defines your entrepreneurial path.

So you can understand how a flawed ideology can negatively impact your thoughts, decision making, and ultimately your success.


If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around. – Jim Rohn


Now, I realize that the expression ‘fake it until you make it’ can be used in jest and manifest itself in various empowerment connotations. However, the problem with this type of business ideology is that – when taken literally – it perpetuates three beliefs:

  • It sets a false sense of standards
  • It represents a very base justification of present realities
  • It suggest that “faking it” will somehow lead to “making it”

This type of startup advice is the underpinning of a common belief that suggests: “I can ‘get by’ until something big happens.” In business — this is not an ideal approach. Instead, I would encourage all entrepreneurs: from seed, to early-stage to growth companies to “be it” (i.e. grow to be; turn into) until you make it.


Why ‘Becoming’ Makes Good Business Sense

Entrepreneur Adam Fletcher, owner of The Hipstery, sheds light on this catchphrase and other types of bad startup advice by noting, “We owe it to everyone else to be honest, to share both successes and failures. Otherwise it starts looking like, based on our titles, our press releases, our websites and our business cards that everyone is succeeding. Then, if we try something and it doesn’t work out, we take it as a personal failure. We think we’re the exception and not part of a larger rule…”


In a literal sense our subconscious minds associate the nature of faking it with something that is not authentic or genuine. An imposter. Moreover, while the phrase is intended to breed expectation, belief, and confidence – at best it can be likened to the placebo effect, where the mere expectation of some sort of effect is enough for you to perceive changes that aren’t physically there.

Yet the business reality is simple: You can’t fake anything for long – successfully and you’ll need to effect real change to make your business dreams a reality.


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