Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fake It Till You Make It

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While writing last week’s article based on Charles Sykes “50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education,” I realized I had lots more I wanted to say about this one.

“The real world doesn’t care about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.”

I often hear, “I can’t. I’m not ready. I’m not smart enough. I don’t know how.”

In some cases we do need to sit back and gather more experience or even more confidence. However, I’ve found more times than not roadblocks are the result of self-doubts and feelings of incompetence rather than whether or not someone is ready to take the next step.

I will never forget one reality-based competition TV program I watched. I share the story with audiences—particularly teenagers—on a regular basis. Although I cannot remember the name of the show or all the specifics, I do remember the message.

The final three contestants, fashion designers (and, no, it wasn’t “Project Runway”), were heading to Paris for the final leg of the competition. Two were thrilled. For one, the news seemed to be a death sentence. Something was wrong as we—the viewers—were about to find out.

Contestant number one had studied, practiced and worked hard. She had become a designer skilled enough to secure a top-three spot. On the verge of having all her dreams come true, she had one teensy problem. She was afraid to fly.

How she tried. She showed up on the departure day. She boarded the plane. She stayed on the plane for as long as she could, but she couldn’t stand it long enough to leave American soil. The two others, minus a major competitor and much closer to their own dreams, flew off without her.

I share this story with teenagers in with my talk about overcoming fears. The message is that we don’t want to be at the starting gate ready for our opportunity and not be able to take the next step.

We usually don’t do anything the first time completely prepared. We must expand beyond our comfort zone. If we really thought mastery was a prerequisite to begin our projects, we’d never attempt anything. We are never fully ready for the next step. That is the lesson we must convey to our children.

How do we share this message with our children? One way is to model it. We demonstrate how this can be done by doing it ourselves. We follow that old adage: “Fake it till you make it.” We allow our children to see our fear and we let them see us doing things we are afraid of.

There are times when it is better to step back and say, “I need more education. I need more experience. I need guidance.” You can’t practice medicine until you complete the program and earn the degree. But there is a difference between making decisions based on fear or fact. If you see your children hesitating because of fear, then they are probably coming from a place of “not being good enough,” or being afraid they will not measure up.

The way to be best prepared for any opportunity in life is to do the preliminary work. Polish your skills, hone your talents and address any fears you have along the way. Help your children do the same. If you do, you are more likely to find the joys you seek instead of watching your peers fly off to your Paris without you.

Allyn Evans
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