How Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Can Fake It ‘Til They Make It

Three things to keep in mind

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 29 Dec 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes, according to a TED Talk from Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy on how body language affects how others see us and how we think and feel about ourselves. In her research she found that power posing could in fact change the way people present themselves, and are perceived, in situations like a job interview.

In short, she says you can fake it ‘til you make it.

Says Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of Manila-based Machine Ventures, “I would say [the concept is] definitely widely-adopted in the entrepreneurs’ community.” The success of companies, he says, tend to be magnified by the media and the communities around them, but they each have their own struggles.

“The way we at Machine Ventures build companies is to aim for the fastest sustainable growth possible. From the outside, people see the amazing growth that our companies have but inside, we have strict KPIs to grow the company and that we sometimes miss,” Shabibi says.

For Jared Polites, a PR and marketing consultant for start-ups, “Most times, a little "fake it ‘til you make it" is warranted and can act as a motivator to learn and get the job done.”  

He adds, “It works and it shows how much we limit ourselves as humans.”

Richard McGirr, founder of Hong Kong-based IT consulting firm GreyLoud, also endorses this strategy, though he prefers to call it “Capacity Development.” He says, “I started my first real business in college as a social media and content marketing consultant. I had a background as a blogger at a rather large music website, but I knew very little about marketing management… That didn't stop me from landing a few clients (mostly start-ups) and helping them set up their own content machines.”

How can Southeast Asian entrepreneurs push themselves to fake it ‘til they make it? Here are three ways:

1. Seize opportunities

There’s no better way to push yourself than the fear of failing.

“The way I personally advise all of our entrepreneurs at Machine Ventures is that when they see an amazing opportunity coming while they don't know how to execute it, the rule of thumb is to take the opportunity and then try to figure out how,” Shabibi says.

What they have found is this puts a positive pressure on each member of the team to continuously learn and push their limits.

Polites adds, “The point is, we often miss many great opportunities due to a lack of confidence.”

2. Think of it as a motivator to learn

“We all start somewhere and need to improvise to get going—this process is critical to human development and learning and should be encouraged rather than shunned,” says Polites, who has worked for Bangkok-based aCommerce and venture capital firm Ardent Capital.

He adds that when there is pressure to learn and complete a project, the learning process goes into hyper-drive and we tend to see how much capability we have.

“Try expanding your responsibilities, say yes, even if you have to fake it a bit. Note, not lying, but just absorb information, stay humble, learn, and grow into that role,” he says.

3. Try power posing

In Cuddy’s research, they asked participants to do either a high-power pose or a low-power pose for two minutes before undergoing a stressful job interview. The study revealed that people who did the high-power pose were evaluated much more positively overall and that people wanted to hire them instead of those who did the low-power pose.

Power posing, according to Cuddy, can also increase the level of testosterone, the hormone associated with dominance, and decrease the level of stress hormone cortisol. “So two minutes lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident, and comfortable, or really stress-reactive, and feeling sort of shut down,” she says.