I’ve heard many people use the famous quote by Oscar Wilde which starts, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…” Often, people use this quote to argue for copying the success of others. I’ve heard it used in the context of art, design, business and even with individual careers and lifestyles.
There are countless books, podcasts and YouTube channels on how (insert name of a successful person here) hit it big. We are obsessed with finding other people’s “secrets to success.” We convince ourselves that if we do exactly what they did, we will yield the same results.
Albert Einstein is famously misattributed for saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While this may be a suitable definition, here is my definition. Insanity is doing exactly what someone else did to be successful and expecting the same results.
Certainly, there are things that we can learn from other people’s, successes and failures. I’m not suggesting that there is no value in understanding their stories, but their story is not your story. As individuals, we may share similar interests, traits, and experiences, but the sum total of our experiences are not the same.
You are a unique individual, unlike any other. It may sound cheesy, but that makes you special. Your background, the people who have influenced your life, your skills, interests, and passions. All those things are what make you … well, you.
As individuals, we are constantly changing. Each day brings new experiences that shape who we are. The you of today will not be the same you tomorrow, next week or next year. If you’re not convinced, just reflect back over the last five years and compare yourself then and now. Most of us will be amazed at how much life we’ve experienced in that short span. All those individual moments matter. They add up. Each of them a colorful fragment of glass in the mosaics of our lives.
You may be thinking, yeah, yeah. I’m a unique little butterfly. So what? What does that have to do with trying to replicate other people’s success? No need to reinvent the wheel, am I right? The answer is quite simple. If you are trying to recreate the success someone else had, you are limiting yourself.
You are limiting yourself to their tools, skills, and life experiences, many of which may not line-up with yours. As much as you may know about someone, you can’t know every intimate detail about their journey. Moreover, you could be blinding yourself to great opportunities uniquely suited to you.
The funny thing about the Oscar Wilde quote that I discussed in the beginning, is that I’ve never heard anyone use the full quote …
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”Oscar Wilde
Adding those six little words changes the context completely. You can’t be great at being someone else, so be yourself. Stop trying to copy others and find out what makes you uniquely capable of serving a need.
Next week, I’ll share a tool that I’ve developed to help me dig into my own skills and experiences to identify opportunities tailored to me.
Until then, don’t limit yourself. Be the original that you were made to be!