I am not cool. I mean, I’m cool, but I have some coolness challenges. But I’m going to explain to you why that’s ok and why it’s so important to admit it. When you lie about whether or not you’re cool, it can have terrible repercussions on your entire life. Sounds serious for something like “pretending to be cool” but let me run this by you and we’ll see what you think.
The other day, a friend of mine, a far younger and cooler friend than me, asked me if I was “still rolling a whip” or something very similar. Now, if you are cool, you probably know what he meant. But if you are as white and as old as me, you are incredibly confused. Luckily, the conversation was via text message and I did the unthinkable; I googled “whip” and I found out that a “whip” is a car. So my friend was merely asking, and it made perfect sense in the conversation, if I still had an automobile.

Instead of saying, “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about Shaka” and asking him to explain, I googled it and said, “of course”. Now, I did this because I obviously want to be cooler than I am and I hope that it made me seem exactly that. Obviously since I’m writing this and it will likely be read by that exact friends and now he’ll know, if he didn’t already, that I’m not actually cool. But I think that this point is important to make, and I hope that by the end of this you’ll understand why, and agree.

My nickname at an old job was “Ya Ya Tanner” because every time he asked me a question about whether or not I knew something, if I wasn’t sure, I would quickly say “yeah, yeah”. Now, you can imagine that if I did this enough that it garnered me a nickname, that was a problem. The problem is that when you don’t know what you’re doing and you pretend you know what you’re doing, then it will come back to bite you in the ass.

For a long time, I was a manager at a call center, and I always told my reps the same thing. If you don’t know an answer to a question, do not pretend that you do. Tell the person that you don’t know the answer to their question but that it is now your mission to get that answer. People respect that. People DON’T respect you pulling an answer out of your ass. And eventually, you’re going to get in over your head.

As difficult as it is, you have to be honest about your abilities. For example, I recently had a client that I was doing some work for. That client wanted me to add to my workload with them some aspects that I was not comfortable with. So, rather than pretending I knew how to solve the issue and not wanting to seem like an idiot, I said the following; “I’ve never used that particular application before. So here’s what I can do. I will review it, see what’s involved, determine whether or not it’s something I can work on and we’ll go from there”. In the end, it was not something I could do comfortably  but I was able to find someone who could and create a relationship.

Honesty is always the best policy.