Fake Your Way to Greatness: A Ten Step Plan

Do you have any idea how great you are? Have you shared your excellence with the rest of the world?

After 25 years as a public relations professional, I became pretty good at promoting other people to make them look good. But it took me a much longer time to figure out how to do that for myself.

Take a look at yourself and your feelings about your accomplishments. Do you undermine or devalue your abilities? Even worse, maybe you constantly question whether you have talent or could ever be successful.

Do you zero in on the things you don't do well and compare yourself  to all of the brilliant people who appear far more talented and successful?

We humans have a strangely counterproductive way of focusing on what we don't have or can't do. We tumble negative thoughts around in our brains, poking and prodding them until they swell and become gigantic brain boils that leech our energy and self-esteem. Dwelling on what we lack does not make us more successful. It drags us down and stifles creativity.

“All well and good,” you might think, “but telling me to stop thinking about it doesn't change the way I  feel.” I get that. And friend, I've been there too. You can have a million people telling you you're brighter than a light bulb, but if you don't feel it and believe it, success always seems elusive.

Here's the secret to embracing your own greatness: fake it.

Remember that famous scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally when Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are in the diner? Harry (Billy) doesn't believe that Sally (Meg) could realistically fake  a — well, you know. Sally gives the performance of a lifetime, then nonchalantly takes a bite of her sandwich, while one of the shocked onlookers tells the waitress, “I'll have what she's having!” Sally proved that you don't have to actually feel it in order to be convincing.

You don't have to re-create Sally's performance, but you can fake feelings in a positive and ethical way to jump start energy and enthusiasm.

You can act “as if” until the ruse becomes the reality. And amazingly, with consistent practice, the ruse really will become reality.

Thoughts are the parents of feelings. And thoughts plus action dramatically reinforce those feelings. If you consistently focus your thoughts on what you can't do or don't have, you will surely feel like a loser. Now, reinforce those negative thoughts with actions, like avoiding people or resisting new challenges, and you might as well pour cement over your feet.

However, if you use that remarkable brain of yours to switch gears entirely and pretend to feel confident and successful, the real feelings will eventually follow. Back up the pretense with action, and you are strapping a Hemi engine to your potential for positive change and success.

With consistent practice, faking it actually tricks the brain into believing it.

Well, it actually starts re-routing neural pathways to the area of the brain that supports happiness and confidence. (Check out this article on the science of neuroplasticity.) The more you think about success and act successful, even if you don't feel it, the more successful you will become.

Here are some kick-start ideas to support you in faking your way to greatness:

1.  Start today. Make a commitment to yourself right now that you will begin implementing these actions, and work on them regularly for the next six weeks. It takes consistency and practice to turn your thinking around. What do you have to lose?

2.  Assess your strengths. Get pen and paper and write down everything you can do relatively well. Can you cook? Are you a good listener? Are you well-read? Have you coached your kid's team? Are you organized? What may seem meaningless to you could be something that others perceive as a real gift. Ask someone close to you to offer feedback on this. Just doing this writing exercise will shift your toward more positive thinking.

3.  Harness and re-frame negative thinking. When you start to feel down about yourself and the negative thinking begins, drop a brick wall in your your flow of thoughts. Literally say, “stop” out loud, and use mental force to interrupt the negative thinking cycle. Then re-frame the thoughts to make them positive. Instead, focus on the can-do list you just created or other positive thoughts or memories.

4.  Separate your higher self from your ego self. It's your ego that wraps you up in negative and fearful thinking. Your higher self knows better. Your higher self knows that you are capable and worthy. Mentally step outside of your ego and become your own best friend. Listen to the kind and supportive words of your friend — not your ego. Your ego may try to tell you your friend is lying, but ignore that ego. He or she is bad news.

5.  Become your own publicist. A publicist presents their client in the best and most positive light possible. They draw attention to the client's abilities and successes in an interesting way. Pretend that you are your own client. If you were promoting this client, what would you say? How would you put your best foot forward? What skills and talents are you ignoring or downplaying that might be worthwhile to others?

6.  Write your bio and elevator speech. While still pretending that you are your own publicist, write your bio and an elevator speech. Craft these so that your client (you) presents real abilities in an impressive style. But here's a tip: write these from the perspective of service and passion. How can you reflect the passion you feel about providing a something valuable to others? Then you infuse your self-promotion with real value and meaning. Begin memorizing and rehearsing these lines for your next gig — acting.

7.  Practice method acting. Define the person you would like to be — perhaps someone confident, worthy, curious and courageous. Use your imagination to get into the mind of this character and adopt the emotions this character would have. Act “as if” until your thinking changes, and you begin to really feel these emotions. This may be draining at first, but as you practice, it will become the real you, not just an act.

8.  Step on to the stage. While “in character,” take part in the play. Practice your acting in real-life situations. Go to the networking meeting. Ask for the job. Speak up in the meeting. Put yourself out there. Is it possible you might flop? Sure, but it's also possible you will get rave reviews. Learn from the flops, and apply the knowledge to your next performance. Every flop is a stepping stone to success — unless you quit.

9.  Hone your skills. If there are areas in your life or career where you truly do need more knowledge or experience, then do something about it. Ask for help, take a class, read, find a mentor. Constantly work to improve your skills — a tangible action that will support your efforts at positive thinking and acting “as if.”

10. Focus energy on your passion. If you enjoy what you do, you will naturally have more energy in doing it. If you have the choice, align your acting and learning efforts with the work or activities you most enjoy. Don't fight against the flow. Go with it! If you are an accountant, but you really love teaching, then maybe it's time to reassess your career. Or perhaps to find a way to combine your passion with your existing skills.

If you want to skyrocket your success, start by faking your thoughts and actions.

  • access your strengths
  • re-direct and re-frame your thinking
  • promote yourself with passion and a spirit of service
  • step into a confident character role
  • keep learning
  • live your passion

With practice, faking it will transform into feeling it, and you will discover that success is never far behind!

If you want to read more about life transformation, please download my FREE e-book, How to Live a Meaningful Life.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 27 comments
  • Christopher Lovejoy

    Wonderful post, Barrie. I hear what you’re saying and I’m liking every bit of it. One thing, though. I think Sally did, eventually, get around to feeling it as she was faking it. But then, that’s the point, isn’t it: to feel it while you fake it.
    .-= Christopher Lovejoy´s last blog ..Heart of Darkness =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      I think she just had to find the right man Christopher! 🙂

  • David: Reduce Stress Increase Success

    Perhaps I am in agreement with you or perhaps not depends on how your view my comment.

    I believe it is important to nourish our own self confidence as much as possible but to also be clear with other people about who we really are. I don’t fake who I am with other people so they think I am somewhere I have not reached yet. I am too much of an open book.

    In the past with all my training I thought following all the systems where great ideas to reach my personal best. But instead my life has ‘nudged’ me many times in times of crisis to return to being myself and stop trying to be someone I am not.

    Then success arrived. That is how I met my wonderful wife.

    The content of your post shines with great ideas. I think it is just the title that pushes me the wrong way since ‘Faking’ it never worked for me.

    What do you think Barrie? Am I in conflict with what you are saying?
    I look forward to your response.


      Barrie Davenport

      Hi David,
      Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. I think we are on the same page. I totally agree that we shouldn’t fake who we really are or be fake people, but that we can use “faking” confidence (acting “as if”) to help build confidence. I think of it as stretching yourself. We don’t have to be defined by our limitations. Change and growth are necessary to evolving as individuals. We don’t stay static. And sometimes we have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. Faking it is part of that push. When I have to speak in public, I am always nervous, but I try hard not to let my nerves show. As I get positive feedback or see that I’m not going to faint, then I really do start to feel more confident. Do you see a distinction? I am a huge proponent of being authentic, but authenticity and “faking it ’til you make it” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

      David: Reduce Stress Increase Success

      Hi Barrie,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment. I hear you.

      By the way, I found you because of your article on ProBlogger.
      All the best to you,
      .-= David: Reduce Stress Increase Success´s last blog ..Expect the Unexpected =-.

  • Linda Gabriel

    Either we must be on the same wavelength or I need to hear this message because just before reading this I wrote down this quote from Bre Pettis:

    “Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t, and do it.”

    I think the obvious exceptions to this rule would have to be surgery, aviation, and operating weaponry or heavy machinery! But you get the idea.

    I like the word “pretend” because it’s sort of like “pre-intending.” Maybe that would soothe David’s issue with the word “fake.” The fact is, if we are doing something new and original, perhaps to ourselves, perhaps new to the world, then there’s gotta be a fake it till you make it first time for everything. This is a post I’ll return to. I really like your list of action steps.
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..How Can I Feel Good When So Much Around Me is Bad =-.

  • Barrie Davenport

    Hi Linda,
    Isn’t it funny how that happens — we find messages just at the time we need them! I love the idea of pre-intend. I wish I had used that for the post. But that’s exactly what I mean — we intend to do or be something, so we pretend until our intention becomes reality.

  • Joe Wilner


    Thanks for the inspiring post! The biggest limits we place on ourselves is our own, and by giving ourselves a chance to just get started we can see change and start to eliminate self-defeating thoughts. This made me realize that developing greatness is a process but by really doing a true evaluation of who we are and what we care about, as well as having a willingness to learn we can make huge strides.

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you Joe. I am so glad you liked the post. It is a process for the rest of your life, because we are always changing and growing, and our definition of greatness shifts. You should enjoy the process as much as you relish reaching the goal.

  • Carolina

    Barrie –

    I think you’re unto something here 🙂 Over the last month, I was looking to transition within the company as my group is getting spun off soon. I didn’t want to be put in the situation where I’ve had someone decide my career for me, so I went about interviewing and went through great discussions. Not once did I think I would never get anything – and not was did I present something other than what I was – I didn’t let myself think what would happen if I didn’t get it – I just went ahead convinced that I’d get something great. And I did.

    I know I’m not perfect but I find it very hard to believe that the forces of life work against us instead of with us.


      Barrie Davenport

      That is wonderful! Congratulations. When you keep focused on what you want, knowing that you will get it, you are harnessing so much energy to propel you toward success. Looks like you did that.

  • Tess The Bold Life

    I partake in a Happiness Boot camp and part of it is writing down 15 things I
    “got right” in the last 24 hours and 15 things that “went right.” To consistently give myself credit and recognize my greatness has been life changing. It’s call perfection projection when we constantly compare ourselves to others and lose;)

    After a 3 year hiatus, I’ve been hired to do a full day training and just this morning I thought how in the world am I going to do this for 6-8 hours? And then I got the reminder over here…to pretend. Silly of me to forget. Thanks for the reminder. Now I’ll go do some planning while my juices are running.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Interview with Simon Hay =-.

      Barrie Davenport

      I am so glad that my post served as a reminder for you. Yep, just pretend until you realize that you are completely capable of doing this job. It will all come back to you! Congratulations.

  • Paul Strobl


    Excellent tips! I think most business owners do step six, but they’re still in their ego–number 5 is excellent advice. I’m going to look at my own communications from the point of view of a publicist.


    Best regards,


      Barrie Davenport

      Hi Paul,
      Yes, sometimes you have to look at yourself like a client, Take care of yourself the way you would take care of your most valuable client. Who else deserves it more?

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  • Christopher Foster

    Hi Barrie.
    I love the title of your blog and I love the theme of this post. I think the real point here is that what you say works because the greatness is real — in all of us. I’ve sometimes thought we are like a magnificent painting that over the centuries has been covered over by cheap imitations.
    All that is necessary is to peel away the imitations and then there we are, the genuine article. As you say a fine way to do this is to pretend that we are graceful or beautiful or compassionate — for example — and by and by that is what we are, it shines through.
    So happy to have encountered your strong, warm, refreshing spirit.

      Barrie Davenport

      Thank you so much for your warm words Christopher. I love your analogy. Life is all about peeling back layers. It is our raw authenticity that is the most beautiful.

  • Adventurer 101 (Maria)

    Love the picture and the reminder!

    I really need to do with the first one: Start Now!! I don’t know why many projects, I kinda have it in my head and will wait till Monday, or next week, or what have you, but when Monday or whatever days/dates come, I’ll find another excuse. I also like the eight one: Step on to the stage, need to push myself to do it. Action, action, action. 🙂 Fake it till I make it.

    Last Post: Are We Treating Ourselves Worse than Our Cars? (www.adventurer101.wordpress.com)

      Barrie Davenport

      I think one of the best ways to overcome that problem of procrastinating is to tell as many people as possible about what you plan to do. When people are watching, you are highly motivated to follow through!

  • Kevin Sink

    Great post Barrie;
    I would highly recommend a book by Dennis Merzel titled, “Big Mind Big Heart”. In this book he talks about how all of us have multiple voices, or characters in our running internal narrative. Your post is about creating a positive voice, one of possibilities. Many, if not all of us have a negative voice, coming from fear, that tells us why we shouldn’t try or do. Dennis talks about having a “board room” in our minds, and sitting at the table are all the voices that make up our inner dialogue. Your post invites a new voice into the board room. We aren’t being somebody we aren’t by listening to this voice, we are merely allowing our true, courageous voice to have at least a seat at the board room table. We need to politely ask the voice of fear to go stand in the corner of the room for awhile, and give our courageous voice some time to contribute!

      Barrie Davenport

      That is a brilliant analogy Kevin. I love it. Yes, we do have “multiple personalities” living within us. They don’t have to be in conflict, but they do have to speak at the appropriate times! Thanks for the useful and thoughtful comment.

  • Stephen

    Number 7 particularly resonates, I’m a great believer in fake it until you are it. Great blog Barrie!

  • Kapil Apshankar

    Barrie – I’m totally in agreement with the ten step plan you laid down.

    The steps resonate with my own thoughts – and align with what science and psychology constantly tell us.

    There’s only one word that I did not agree with – fake.

    I know that in this context, it has a make-believe connotation.

    Make-believe, and acting as if we’re already there does indeed fool the brain – and causes permanent changes to the neural connections in our brains. These ten steps definitely will help one get there.

    Just that, it’s not really faking.

    It more like a child’s play – thinking about something. Acting as if. Make-believe. Lending ourselves our imagination.

    Thanks for this post – really appreciate the ten steps. As always, it’s something that can be implemented out of the box 🙂
    .-= Kapil Apshankar´s last blog ..Social Media And Networking Success- Are You Faking It =-.

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