Published by ShawnKinley on

toy doll of woman dressed in dress

('til you make it.)

You must have heard this term before,


 “FAKE IT ‘TILL YOU MAKE IT” is an encouragement to PRESENT A CONFIDENT FACADE and HIDE THE FEELING that you aren’t confident. “Bullshit when you can’t be credible”. “Be confident where you aren’t competent”.

Ughhhhh… (Stop doing that!)

This overused suggestion is shared with those who doubt their ability or knowledge. These poor souls have IMPOSTER SYNDROME and feel (rightly, or wrongly) that they don’t have the skills/qualifications that others assume they should have.  We’ve all been there.


On the positive side…  Faking it a bit can get you through a stress-filled situation with students who want to show themselves as smarter/funnier. It can get you through situations where you’ve over-stepped what you can actually offer in front of judgemental business people.


“FAKE IT ‘TILL YOU MAKE IT”  is also responsible for misinforming and damaging countless improvisers, consultants, teachers… and students. IT damages the person doing it and the people they are doing it in front of.

Innocent students pay the price for a teacher who is faking it and possibly passing on misinformation, we must fight this injustice! You simply don’t have to fake it. You have other options. You and your audience deserves more.

Teachers who embrace the “fake it” attitude develop bad habits.

  • They might fake it because they didn’t learn the information correctly. Because they are getting by when they fake it, they might be unwilling to do the work they need to adjust what they are faking. 
  •  They perpetuate misinformation because their faking got them through one situation so they assume it’s good enough. They miss subtlety because they hold rigidly to any broad stroke that worked. 
  • Fakers argue for their limitations they are developing. They argue in their head that if they did drop this veil of artificial wisdom that they’ve built up, that people wouldn’t hire them, trust them or like them They couldn’t exist if they admitted that they ‘don’t know’.  “The King is naked”, (King Midas) “Ignore the man behind the curtain” (Wizard of Oz).

Eventually, those people CAN’T BE TAUGHT. They sell themselves as authorities while their innocent students buy the bullshit. AND eventually, the truth catches up with them (hopefully before too much damage is done to the work, the community and to themselves).  DON’T FAKE IT!!!

There is a place and time for this “Fake it…” concept but there are other and BETTER means to address the underlaying issue.


  • Refuse the gig /  Suggest a competent group or person / Partner with a more competent group or person
    It’s important to know your limitations. Partner with more competent people in class and on stage. You’ll learn more. You’ll form better relationships by sharing the work, and you’ll give the person hiring you the value they deserve.
  • Some new teachers/performers don’t trust that they  actually ARE COMPETENT with what they know. EVEN THE MOST COMPETENT TEACHER DOES NOT KNOW EVERYTHING.  Know THAT. When you don’t know the information, use that state as a tool.

  • By saying you don’t know the answer, you teach vulnerability. You teach students that it’s OK not to know everything and that you can remove the stress of being right by being honest. (This is a lesson that every school system fails to teach students who are crippled with the fear they don’t know it all)
  • Follow up the admission by inviting the student to become the explorer. “Let’s explore the possible answer to the problem!” YOU are the expert fascilitator. Your group and their creative possibilities are your resource. 

    An example: How to tell a good story. If you don’t know how to do it or how to teach it, Ask them what we all know about the stories we like. Ask them what are the common qualities in those stories. Create games together to practice those qualities. Try the games. Admit when some fail and others succeed. Ask yourselves WHY did they fail and WHY did they succeed.  Develop theories. Play with them.
    You don’t have to know much. You need to be able to ask about the things you don’t know. Ask questions that open paths for them to walk down. You don’t need to teach them how to walk.

    Teaching students HOW TO LEARN/EXPLORE is usually much better than teaching them WHAT to learn. It’s like that saying… 

    Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime

    I promise, if you are vulnerable, curious and honest, you will make great discoveries. You will ALL learn something and the class  will be memorable. Your students will think you are a great teacher for giving them ownership in the work and inspiration in the class. The skies will open up and light will shine down on you and you will fly and monkeys will dance around you singing that song you love to hear… Or something like that.

    Don’t have the information? No time to explore? Tell them you will all work on it in the next session. Ask them all to bring in one theory or exercise to explore.  (They’re making your lesson plan. Accept their ideas. Find the value in their questions). Inspiring people to think for themselves is something all improvisers need to learn.

WHEN TO FAKE IT – YES! There are time to Fake it until you make it. 

I remember a group of business people in London, UK. They were managers. I made the mistake of opening a point of uncertainty with them. Three or four of them were piranas. At the first sign of “weakness,” they rose up and heckled like 15-year-old school boys.

Fortunately, the class was large and the REALLY competent participants were equally expressive. Those great participants and I created an inspired moment that gave us all tools that would not have happened from someone who faked it or allowed the insecure few to take over.

But the danger was clear… if the class had not been diverse and too many egos overpowered the curious vulnerable, the moment of inspiration would never have found us.

That’s the time to fake it and move forward. But the content of the class needs to bend towards exercises that open the students up to becoming vulnerable and curious. Teach them to place the class process above fragile egos. (that’s an entirely different topic).

AN alternate to faking facts is facing uncertainty with questions. Ask confident questions that make students reveal what they know and what they are willing to offer.

There’s a good chance that those people who are behaving with insecurity have been told by others to, “FAKE IT ‘TILL YOU MAKE IT”.



READ YOUR AUDIENCE and only fake it as a last resort. Use it too much and it becomes your precious Gollum’s ring that will consume you.


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