As babies we learn through imitation. We use our unrefined motor control skills to mimic what our parents do, and eventually with enough practice, most of us master the basics like eating and speaking.
The problem is that many people stay in this imitation phase for their whole lives, always having someone that they're trying to be, or at least copy. Maybe it's a cooler friend or maybe it's a celebrity.
What these people don't realize is that trying to copy someone is a fool's game, because it puts a ceiling on how good you can actually ever get. Take Steve Jobs, who I use as an example because he was a very distinct person whose qualities we're all familiar with. No one else will ever be Steve Jobs. You'll never hear the phrase, "He's like Steve Jobs, but even better."
Trying to become excellent AND copy someone else at the same time is like putting a Miro in the copy machine and expecting it to come out better than the original. It just doesn't happen. I don't know for sure why it's impossible to beat someone at their own game, but my guess is that it's because we can only really understand so much about someone from their actions. There's so much activity within their brains that we're not privy to. We see the tip of the iceberg, but sometimes we're trying to replicate 90% that's underwater just by looking at the visible portion.
On the other hand, you have a great advantage if you really embrace who you are and try to become the best possible version of yourself that you can be. When Warren Buffet talks about investing, he says that one of the most important things he looks for is a moat-- an insurmountable separation between that company and its competition. In real life, your moat is your individuality. Just as you can't really copy anyone else, they can't copy you, either.
That doesn't mean not to learn from other people, of course. Learning from other people is awesome, but what we learn must be passed through our own internal filters before it's expressed through our actions. We can actually use what we learn from other people to become better versions of ourselves.
Anyway, just another reason to be yourself. It's the only real path to excellence that we have.
Heading to Peru tonight! Guaranteed hilarious stories when I get back, as I'm attempting a difficult hike with no acclimatization, no guide, and two fewer days than is usually required.
Tigers like belly rubs.
The behavior you describe is a Straw Man. Who does that? People in mental institutions, that's who. You can model someone, with the intention of learning all you can from them and then progressing and surpassing their performance. Check out the example of the 8-year-old tennis prodigy who swung a one-handed backhand just like Federer. Why? Her family were fans of Federer and had most of his games recorded, so she had watched that backhand 10,000 times and copied it instinctively. Where she takes her game now has nothing to do with Federer, or any psychotic fixation on being Federer. (You can find this In Daniel Coyle's "The Talent Code". A useful book, with some good content and a lot of padding...)
I'm trying to update my profile but every time I do so it doesn't seem to update :(. I am using firefox :S
Tynan! Great post!,
Tynan, I have a question about your previous post on skipping college. I've started learning the Spanish program from Pimsleur, which you recommended and I had heard of from other people. My question is, how good was your Spanish after completing all four programs? I'm pretty sure it won't make me fluent in Spanish only interaction with Spanish/Latin people will do that but will it get me to the stage were I can listen to what people say and understand say 80% of it?
PS. I thought Tigers liked dinner more than belly rubs?
I did the full pimsleur spanish program before and during my travels to South America last year.I had zero spanish knowledge before starting pimsleur.
I repeated most of the lessons at least 2 times, because its too hard to do each lesson once and move on to the next lesson without becoming overwhelmed. Rarely a day went by without me doing a lesson.
By the end of my travels, people were always VERY surprised at how good my spanish was; particularly how well I pronounced the words. I can understand the gist of what people are saying most of the time. I can make myself understood, and can easily survive in a spanish setting. I am nowhere close to fluent, however, and have difficulty have deeper conversations beyond the basics
When I came back home to Canada I joined a spanish conversation club. My spanish was just as good or better after 4 months than the other people who had spent 2-5 years taking spanish courses at the local university.
Thank you so much for your reply! I really enjoyed reading your experience with Pimsleur. I am currently on Unit 9 series 1 and I'm enjoying it a lot! It isn't work it's more fun!
I think once I am done with Pimsleur I am going to give this website a go: http://fsi-language-courses.org/Content.php
A lot of people have recommended it to me, but I have not tried it yet. It's free and provided by the US government for their employees who travel abroad for work.
Anyway, thank you again for your insight into Pimsleur.
Your RSS feed is no longer updating - at least, not in Google Reader.
After noticing two "missed" posts I came over to visit the source, and am relieved that you have not been in a motorcycle wreck. But some part of the SETT back end might need fixing.
Very true everyone has their own individuality. How should I go about following my own path when i have been imitating people for so long?
Are you stopping by in Lima? If so, come and say hi? ;-)
Monday - Jay-Z announces that he's doing a 7 stop tour in one day. I look for details / tickets and there are none of either to be had.
Tuesday - The first tickets start showing up. I e-mail everyone posting them, but they're always sold.
Wednesday - More tickets on craigslist / ebay. I am still e-mailing them, almost get tickets, but don't.
Leo Babauta has inspired millions through his writing on Zen Habits, where he's shared his experiences in building up great habits, cutting clutter and junkfood from his life, learning about great parenting and building a wonderful family, eliminating debt, increasing his income and productivity, and living a life that's more happy through and through.
Leo is now graciously participating in GiveGetWin with a practical class on "action-oriented contentment", and he sat down with Sebastian Marshall to share his thoughts on what motivates him, around what contentment is, on trusting yourself, on being compassionate and compassion as an impetus for action, on self-compassion and treating yourself well, and happiness in general. Enjoy:
"Practical, Action-Oriented Contentment and Compassion" by Leo Babauta, as told to Sebastian Marshall