Learn It ’Til You Earn It. “Fake It ’Til You Make It” is dead.

A couple of days ago my friend Pat Phelan tweeted a very simple statement but quite profound if you read it properly.

And he is 100% right. It’s not.

I went through my phase of preaching it a little bit, my career has been a continual ride of having to pick things up quickly, adapt them to my needs (or my employer’s needs).

All very well, job done, but I come away knowing about 10% of the actual skill. Regardless, onto the Linkedin profile it goes, “I’m an expert in…..”. The internet is the great firewall of facts, what you see on the outside is not always the reflection of what’s really going on.

In one organisation I was called “The Busker”, I may not know a certain skill but I could learn enough to get my organisation a working solution. On reflection this title is both a blessing and a curse.

Fake It ’Til You Make It

The rallying cry of the majority of startup founders in the world. We’ll just figure it out as we go along. All the preaching of the Lean Startup movement is just a series of fake it pivots until something sticks.

Hustle porn is the same, you’ll see the Hustlearti going “deep” into pretty much anything for a while, then pivot to something else. Right now Gary Vee is deep on Blockchain, fine. He was deep in something else a couple of years ago.

While I appreciate you have to keep an eye on what the market is doing, fake market cycles of knowledge is a dangerous thing. The reason Web3 never really took or (or will take off), the value creation is just too volatile.

Learn it ’Til You Earn It

There I said it here first, so it’s mine. If you’re a programmer you have to go deep into a language for a period of time. I’ve gone through loads of them, done my time, paid my dues and all that.

I’m not even talking about things like the 10,000 hour rule, because that’s kind of nonsense too. Everyone in the world is different, everyone learns in different ways.

I can’t go and fake being a bus driver, I have to get tuition and get some practice driving time in. Then I have to take some tests. Once those who know the domain decide you are trustworthy to drive other people in a big box with wheels, well then you can.

The internet does not make me a bus driver. Learning and practice does.

Jimmy Carr Is My Guru

Yes, this sometimes offensive, depraved mind and one of the ultimate word play experts, Jimmy Carr is now my guru. Not for much apart from one sentence. “Find your edge and know how you are perceived in the world.”.

I thought I had my edge, I know my stuff in a couple of areas deeply. As in thirty years or more in data, data quality and programming. It was the second part I was ignoring but I’m now taking a lot more time over. The last statement is just as important as the first. You can know your stuff better than anyone else, but if you act like an idiot all the time then people may just move away from you slowly.

Just knowing a bit of something will no longer get you through. We have an over supply of self proclaimed “experts”, some really know their stuff, some know nothing at all. Controlling the optics on screen is one thing, being asked to prove your worth is another. And I’ve seen many unravel when asked to prove it.

As Jimmy puts it, “no one cares if you’re average at physics”.

Aim for the green bit…. :)



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Jason Bell

Jason Bell


Specialises in synthetic data and automated brokerage. Author of two Machine Learning books for Wiley