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Being for Real in a “Fake It Till You Make It” World: Elizabeth Holmes is a Perfect Example

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Fake it Till You Make it - Not Anymore!
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Fake it till you make it seems innocent enough: if you show competence, confidence, and optimism, then your power of positive thinking will deliver the results you want.

Bulls–t said with conviction is still bulls–t. The fraud trial of disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes tears the mask off of Silicon Valley’s “Fake it till you make it” mantra. A jury convicted Holmes of fraud over her bogus claims that Theranos’ blood-testing could detect a wide variety of illnesses.

It was a story everyone wanted to believe. A 19-year old Stanford dropout with a breakthrough idea ready to shatter Silicon Valley’s douchebaggerous bro culture. Her charisma fooled even the likes of former U.S. Defense Secretary General James Mattis into coughing up investment money until “I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore.” Even the most seasoned decision-makers believe what they want to until disaster tears the veil from the eyes.

Fake it till you make it seems innocent enough: if you show competence, confidence, and optimism, then your power of positive thinking will deliver the results you want. Law of Attraction enthusiast Rhonda Byrne counsels’ people to make-believe. As you make-believe, she tells us, you will begin to believe that you have received.

It’s total claptrap.

I’m all about the importance of positive self-talk, along the lines that Dan Gilbert suggests in Stumbling on Happiness. You’ve got to believe in your ability to succeed and encourage yourself to take action. You get good results when you take wise steps, which reinforce your positive beliefs. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Authenticity is the difference between positive self-talk and fake-it-till-you-make-it charlatanism. Charlatans have conviction — charisma taken to an unhealthy extreme. Authentic people are humble: they recognize that others have value and that you can learn from them. They have a healthy degree of imposter syndrome.

Be for real, get the deal, is the antidote to charlatanism. Look for humility in business leaders, politicians, pundits, and others who want your support. Always get the other side of the story.

Attune your b.s. meter to those who speak with absolute conviction; run, don’t walk away.  

Here’s my 2022 reading list for leaders and consultants.

My mission is to help successful people like you gain new heights by being the best version of yourself and inspiring people to contribute their best and most authentic selves to your team’s success.

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