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Act As If...

By Marty Nemko

If I filled a room with 100 people who are passionate about their career, 90 would say they didn’t feel passionate about it until long after they were in the career. Take, for example, the college grad who was career clueless. Then, a relative said, “You want to work in a dashboard manufacturing plant?” He certainly had no passion for dashboards, but not having a better option, he said yes. He acted, however, as if he were passionate about dashboards: He carefully observed his co-workers, he asked questions, he read articles on dashboard manufacture. He pursued dashboard expertise like an unleashed tiger pursues a cross rib roast. Soon, co-workers started coming to him with questions, and he eventually became the go-to guy on the factory floor. Not surprisingly, he also soon got promoted. Now, not surprisingly, he’s passionate about dashboards. Typically, passion doesn’t come from choosing a sexy-sounding career, it comes from feeling expert, respected, and in-demand. Lesson: Act as-if... As with sex, passion often doesn’t come instantly--it takes time to get worked up.

Yesterday, I gave a workshop called “Smart Yet Stuck.” for adults still not sure what they want to be when they grow up. An attendee said, “I met a major Democrat operative, who asked me to email him a proposal, but I’m too scared to follow through.” I asked him to stop thinking and act as-if: “Pretend you’re the most confident self you’ve ever been and do what that self would do.” I added, “If you feel fear building up, say ‘Stop!’ aloud and go back to acting as if you were that best self.” I’m not sure he meant it, but he did say he was optimistic that that simple technique would be enough to get him to send that proposal.

When I’m relaxed, people are always complimenting me on the quality of my voice. So, especially when I’m in a pressure situation, I remind myself to--you guessed it--act as if I were my relaxed self. That works…sometimes.

Acting-as if…, faking it ‘til you make it, can often be a shortcut to triumphing over fears and putting fire in your belly.

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