I Haven’t Made It But I’m No Longer Going To Fake It

Did you ever say you could do something and then had to figure out how to do what you’d just agreed to? Such chutzpah can be a good thing for landing a job, I suppose, and I certainly have done my share of it.

I was 24 years old when I interviewed for a full-time media specialist position at a large and growing Methodist church in Ohio with a funny name called Ginghamsburg. They were averaging 1000 a weekend, had just moved into a new sanctuary with screens and cameras, and needed an expert to help understand and use the new technology.

I was a fresh graduate-to-be with intern and associate-level experience at three television stations and three post-production studio environments. I’d handled some gear but my resume suggested I knew more than I actually did. And I was eager to embellish whatever good thoughts others threw at me: Run sound? Sure! Live, multi-camera switching? Sure! Computer graphics? No problem!

I was a full-on practitioner of a philosophy that has served young workers everywhere:


Fake It Til You Make It.

The courage behind the sentiment is admirable, and entrepreneurs have used it to name a reality into which they might grow, such as the executives at Kutol. Being an entrepreneur at heart I am reluctant to throw water on the ability to think and act big. And my job worked out pretty well for me and for my employer, so the “fake it” philosophy isn’t all bad.

But the downside to faking it til you make it is that you can try to do everything.

Being a creative and communicator is especially prone to such fakery. Filmmaking, photography, graphic design, art design, writing, social media, creative direction, live production, stage craft, and on it goes – there are so many specialties and things to do. One person can never do it all well. But FOMO – the fear of missing out – can lead us to say yes to everything.

Eventually, I got tired of trying to do everything. So three years ago, I took a personality assessment.


A personality assessment freed me from the slavery of fakery.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is an assessment unlike any other. (It has sold more than 4 million copies to date and was named Amazon’s bestselling book of 2013.) A lot of assessments focus on your limitations, even if by accident. They tell you you’re an introvert and a doer and inadvertently tell you that you are no good with people or you can’t think.

StrengthsFinder is different. It’s built on the premise that every of us has a unique combination of gifts – strengths – that form who we are. With so many unique strengths (here’s the full list of 34 strengths), the combinations that form each of us are endless.

Before I took the test, I expected mine to match my career experience. I anticipated having strengths such as Analytical, Communication, and Futuristic. But the results surprised me. Here is what the test said I am:

  • Ideation
  • Intellection
  • Strategist
  • Input
  • Learner

At first I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. But the results nagged me, and over a period of months I began to notice patterns in my interests and actions that matched. I went back and re-read the five descriptions. I came to a realization: I really am good at these five things.



Understanding My Strengths Was Life-Changing.

Perhaps this sounds self-evident or even arrogant. But in a way that I’d never done before, I began to own these characteristics in myself. I like the process of Ideation and diving deep with Intellection, based on regular Input and fueled by to Learner’s desire. And the ideas I enjoy work best when arranged by the plans of a Strategist.

I looked back on where I’d been and my career decisions made sense from this perspective – I loved acquiring books in publishing. I loved big ideas and strategizing to make them happen through my company Midnight Oil and, before that, at the big Methodist church in Ohio.

The more I began to own these strengths, the freer I felt to let go of other things I had in the past tried to acquire, such as the skills of a graphic designer or commercial filmmaker or the flair of a presenter. I am a generalist and a little easily distracted, which means I probably lack the singular focus to be best at any one of those many hard skills. Instead of feeling bound by this perceived weakness, I am now free to put my attention into my strengths.


Knowing My Strengths Frees Me To Turn My Weaknesses To My Advantage

Not only does knowing my strengths help me focus my life better, I can offset my weaknesses by surrounding myself with amazing friends, networks, staff and colleagues. When I celebrate what others can do, my perceived weakness turns into an opportunity, because I discover amazing talents that are better than my own. As my father often advised me, “surround yourself with people better than you are.”

I still enjoy making movies, graphic design, and many other hard skills of communication, and I enjoy teaching people, but I no longer feel the need to lay claim to everything, or to fake it in the hopes of making it. Now, as a Creative Director, I have found a role that suits my strengths well.

I wish I could claim that I’d made this career move strategically with my strengths in mind, but the reality is that I did it kind of blind – I kind of fell into it. My Christian faith suggests that God’s hand was in charge of these life transitions. The freedom part is that I no longer feel the need to do it all.

I haven’t “made it,” whatever that is, but I’m no longer going to fake it.

How might knowing your strengths change your thinking?

If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you’ll never be great at anything.Strengths-Based Leadership, p. 7


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).

13 Comments on “I Haven’t Made It But I’m No Longer Going To Fake It”

  1. I took this particular assessment a year or so ago and am still trying to work through what it means for me. One thing it has revealed to me is that often my frustrations come from being up to my ears in projects that aren’t necessarily my strengths and/or my strengths aren’t being utilized.

    Oh, and my list is:

    1. Interesting that it is taking you a while to figure it out too. Reading the list is one thing; learning how to do something with it take a bit longer.

      1. Well written, Len! And… i might add that the Learner Strength can cause one to take on new skills just to master them – so it’s tricky. I think we’ve had this discussion before, Len – and we share four Strengths (if you count my #6 which i know through Gallup :)) Not only is knowing your own Strengths personally freeing but knowing and understand your spouse’s Strengths becomes a huge marriage strengthener as well. Seriously.

        1. I can’t speak to how Kim found 6-10, but I learned mine (all 34, actually) when I took the coaches’ training offered by Gallup.

  2. Congratulations! Len. I do believe that our shared communication background leads us to believe we can do anything, indeed.

    Appreciative Inquiry was my route to a similar realization. Still, my Strengthsfinder 2.0 results were:
    1 Ideation
    2 Relator
    3 Connectedness
    4 Intellection
    5 Learner

    We connect on 3 of the 5.

  3. StrengthsFinder entered my circles of influence a little while after our lead pastor transitioned to another church. I was still plenty new to pastoring, in terms of experience, skills, and even sense of calling. Then the transition left me as suddenly the only pastor on-site, and I knew I could never be like the departing pastor — a relational shepherd — so I didn’t even try. Sure, I responded to crises as needed, but mostly I just found and placed people with those kinds of gifts in those kinds of situations. Much to my surprise, good things happened in and through the church. It wasn’t too much later that SF gave me the language to describe what had happened — My top Strengths are analytical, strategic, futuristic, learner, and relator. So while it is true that I am genuinely lacking in talents that I tend to associate with shepherding, I could use those things that *are* my strengths — grasping the big picture, developing a vision of what could be, figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B, and developing core teams of people in those ministries — and the people were shepherded quite competently by gifted folks.

    That experience has shaped my ministry, as I have been learning how to accomplish similar purposes using different combinations of strengths. Another example — a combination of analytical, strategic, and futuristic can often mimic adaptability, because I don’t adapt well to the unexpected, but with those three as strengths, I’m not often surprised.

    1. I love this. So many people put an oppressive set of expectations on pastors, expecting them to be endowed with gifts galore: leader, preacher, shepherd, and on it goes. This is both unbiblical and impossible. The oily way to overcome this I believe is for church leaders to name strengths and farm out everything else, as you describe.

  4. Pingback: Name Your Creative Handicap Then Get Over It | Len Wilson

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