Saturday, 25 May 2013

Be inspired by your heroes, but don't imitate them

The truth of any theory or hypothesis is only validated once it has been physically tested.  In science and engineering the great thing is that conditions, actions and results are meticulously documented whenever any testing occurs, allowing for accurate replication by anyone else later on.

When it comes to individual success the equation becomes a bit more complicated though.  Someone else's journey may not always be applicable to yours because we each have different circumstances, resources and strengths.  Furthermore in an ever-dynamic world, conditions are seldom identical for two people.  Nobody accurately documents their lives (because they're too busy living it) so for someone else to replicate it is near impossible. 

That's what makes individual success different: you only know something for sure when you try it yourself.   After hearing the motivational stories and encouragement you have to devise your own angle of approach (taking into account what you may have learnt from others), don your gear and hit the coalface.  

It's a privilege to learn the mindset and actions that someone else took.  Their lessons can save you time, energy and unnecessary failure.  But you will never know the full extent of the actions they took, the full inventory of the resources they had and the full picture of the circumstances they worked under.  

Warren Buffett encourages prudent, long term investing coupled with discipline, and that's a timeless principle anyone can use for investing success.  But Lance Armstrong made an advertorial where he proclaimed to be "on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day" during a time when people started questioning his legitimacy.  While his claim may have been true, it wasn't a fully transparent claim and a hard training routine wasn't what gave him the edge in the Tour de France.  So while his training regimen may be useful to a budding cyclist, it wouldn't give them seven Tour de France titles.

The take-away from this is simple:
• Inspiring and motivational stories must be analysed objectively.  Take the broad principles of what someone you regard as successful did.  Don't take their myth or aura to heart; don't hold on to every detail or quote emanating from them as if it's a nugget of gold - they're only human.  
 Learn from others, but do things your way.  Don't try to replicate what someone else did step by step.  

A success story should serve as confirmation that something is possible and it can provide old fashioned motivation to spur you into action.  On that level, it's okay to believe in a story.  But remember too that yours is a unique journey and success comes when you are able to efficiently harness what's in front of you.

The Happy Uprising: A Passionate yet Pragmatic Approach to Fulfilment, is available for Kindle.
Amazon Review: "Sometimes it's easy to feel burnt out from life. I liked the book because it offers a solution to that problem. It's short, concise, and easy to read.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who feels stressed out from a job, and wants something different."

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