At the beginning of my career, I tried to emulate the successful people that impressed me. I learned pretty quickly that there’s no point in trying to do the same thing everyone else is doing. Things will turn out better if you ignore what everyone else is doing and go your own way.
What do all of the successful people you’re impressed by have in common? They’re talented? True. They put in the hours? Sure. But more importantly, they’re all unique.
Take Steve Jobs. He transformed four industries with fresh, truly original products. He was aggressive and demanding. He also wore a black turtleneck, jeans and gray sneakers every day.
After he died, I noticed that people started wearing black turtlenecks, jeans and gray sneakers. They acted aggressive and demanding. That was the wrong thing to take away from his story. He wasn’t successful because he wore the same thing every day or because he was aggressive and demanding. He was successful because he was unique.
Forget about trying to regurgitate what Steve Jobs has already done. Think of something that is yours and yours alone.
Bob Dylan is another good example. He can’t sing. But that’s his thing and it works for him. I’ve heard countless other musicians who have better voices than he does trying to sing worse so they can sound like him. Again, that is the wrong to take away here. Don’t try to sound like Bob Dylan. Sing in your own voice.
Last but not least, Hugh MacLeod. He first started drawing cartoons on the backs of business cards when he was a struggling young artist living in a YMCA. This led to a popular blog and then he literally wrote the book on creativity. That business model somehow worked for him. That doesn’t mean it will work for you or that you should even try. Find a new one.
It’s okay to be inspired by the great things that others have done before you. I know I am! But things only really started to go my way when I stopped trying to imitate other people and started doing my own thing.
My thing is to eat pizza, wear t-shirts and collect vinyl records. What’s yours?
Charlie Tibshirani is a senior product manager at Axcient. He has 38 records in his collection.