Fake It Till You Get Caught

Sometime this year, I set up an email referral program on Four Minute Books. Every subscriber gets a unique referral link which they can use to invite friends and family, in exchange for which they’ll receive a bunch of rewards.

The more people you refer, the better rewards you’ll get. In this case, the ladder begins with a $10 reading guide for four referrals and ends with a full-on lifetime membership worth $80 for 44 successful invitations.

I think it’s a good deal. Our products aren’t that expensive to begin with, but if you can’t afford them, now, you have an alternative path to attain them, not for free but through a different kind of work.

The day I first announced the program, I received a whole bunch of referrals, and the first set of rewards went out. Unfortunately, as soon as I looked at my dashboard, I realized something was off. “Why are all these email addresses weird strings of letters and numbers? Why do none of them sound like names?”

Naturally, within about ten minutes, the first person had figured out they could send a bunch of fake email addresses my way and cash in their reward. As it should, however, that cheat code only worked once — and not for long.

I banned that person and removed them from all lists, including their fake referrals. I put manual approval checks in place for every reward before it goes out. And now, before anyone gets anything, I take a look at all the data.

Sadly, many people still try to cheat. They don’t know they’re not the first, and so instead of doing it the right way, they run right into the embarrassment getting caught red-handed. Today, someone was even so brazen as to ask, “Hey, where’s my reward?” knowing full well they had made zero real referrals.

Fake it till you make it” only works in a limited number of situations. Sometimes, a little boost of confidence can give you the courage you need to level up your game. Usually, however, it is much better to “practice until you make it.” If you know you’ve earned the right to be on a big stage, you’re less likely to implode in public.

Most of the time, faking it is something we can only do until we get caught, and that’s not a good thing. Stay honest. Put in the work. Sooner or later, you’ll get what you deserve.