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The Difference: Copying Your Mentors vs. Becoming Your Best Self

I’ve often advocated learning from other successful people in your field/niche as a way to become successful yourself. No doubt, I’ve learned a ton from and owe a lot of my success from observing people like Chris Guillebeau, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Leo Babauta and many more.

Watching how your online “heroes” operate is a fantastic learning tool. Dissecting how they communicate, build an audience, create compelling content, etc. is a great way to become a better leader and entrepreneur yourself.

But, there’s a potentially huge pitfall to avoid here too.

I can tell you from my own experience that I spent a lot of time in my early months as a blogger mimicking some of my unknowing mentors. My sites didn’t really start to grow until I stopped mimicking and started becoming myself.

That’s the danger. Learning from mentors is encouraged. Trying to become them instead of yourself is counterproductive and will keep you from breaking out.

Here’s how to tell whether you’re mimicking or learning from your mentors, and some things I’ve learned about becoming yourself.

Becoming Yourself

Note I’ve intentionally used the term “becoming yourself” as opposed to “being yourself.” Your goal online (especially if you’re a blogger) isn’t to be your real self, it’s to be your best self.

There’s a difference between useful transparency and transparency for it’s own sake. If you were completely transparent, you’d share every detail of your real self. That probably includes a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t necessarily put you in the best light, and that doesn’t serve any purpose to you or your audience. It’s simply T.M.I. People don’t need to know about your fetishes unless you’re a fetish blogger.

Your goal might be that you want everyone in the world to know everything about you, but I doubt it. Your goals are probably more along the lines of helping people out, being respected for what you do and creating a sustainable business that supports your ideal lifestyle. At least those are my goals.

Transparency can help you reach these goals, but you have to have a strategy. Being real and honest is important, but again, you want to reveal your best self, the inspiring leader within who can help your audience achieve the change you’re advocating. Again, think about transparency with a purpose, not transparency for it’s own sake.

You, your “real” self already exists. It’s who you are. Your “best” self, on the other hand, is a work in progress. When building successful online business or blog, discovering and shaping that best self will be a journey. It’s about finding your voice and learning what to share and what to keep on the inside.

The authenticity you should strive for won’t see the light of day if you’re simply mimicking other successful people and acting like you think you should act. Readers and potential customers will sense that person you’ve constructed is fraudulent and you’ll have a hell of a time getting traction.

Magic will happen only when you decide to start leading and stop copying.

Some people have figured out this secret from the moment they launched their sites (for example Pat Flynn, Adam Baker, Danielle LaPorte, Karol Gajda and Tyler Tervooren to name a few). Other people take time getting there.

Don’t worry about what you’ve been doing, just commit to being yourself from this point forward. That simple commitment will lead to a major breakthrough. I promise. If a breakthrough doesn’t happen I’ll gladly refund the price of this blog post. 😉

5 Signs You’re Trying to Be Someone Else

Not sure if you’re really being yourself or still copying the people you look up to? Here are 5 signs you’re still trying to be someone else:

  1. Every time you need to make a decision about your business, you first check to see how your mentor or favorite example does it.

    Here’s something that will free you to make your own decisions. There is no “right” way to do anything online. Seriously, you can find counter-examples to just about every success story online. The only constants are hard work and caring about your customers or readers.

  2. When your friends observe your work or read what you write, they comment that it doesn’t really seem like you.

    People close to you can be a great indicator of how much you’re simply copying others. If you haven’t gotten feedback from friends and family, try asking “does this seem like me?”

  3. You have a hard time coming up with original content ideas.

    If you haven’t found your own groove yet, you won’t trust your own instincts or allow yourself to be truly creative. Watch out if you feel like you have to constantly look to other sites for content ideas.

  4. You feel big emotional ups and downs based on validation (or lack of) from others.

    When you really embrace being yourself, you worry less and less about what other peers and experts think about what you’re doing and more about what your customers or readers think. Even negative customer opinions will affect you less when you’re doing your best and being honest about who you are.

  5. You feel like you need permission before attempting anything different from your peers or social norms.

    When you march to your own internal drummer, you’ll gain the confidence to do things that differentiate your business and lead to more major breakthroughs.

Another Danger Worth Noting

One other thing I should mention about observing/copying people you look up to (or even peers). Constantly comparing yourself to others can also be dangerous from a psychological perspective.

When you pay too much attention to what other people are doing (and compare how you’re doing) you set yourself up for failure. You’ll never measure up to someone else’s achievements exactly. Instead, try focusing on being the best at what you do and start feeling better about what you’re achieving.

What’s your strategy? How do you make the most of learning from people you look up to while avoiding copying or holding yourself to an unfair standard?

Let’s discuss in the comments!

photo by cybele malinowski

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