Beating Someone at His Own Game

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.


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