Have you ever tried to emulate someone? Most of us did during our middle and high school years. What about in your adult life? I’m sure at some point we all have. This week we’re going to talk about a rather large trap that exists when we try to try to be like others.
Recently I was going through another excellent basketball coaching newsletter by Mike Neighbors (@coachneighbors). In the newsletter he had included an excerpt from the Jim Henson biography. If you’re a younger reader and don’t know who he is, he’s the creator of the Muppets. I grew up on them, check them out. One of the quotes from Jim Henson in the newsletter said, “If you learn too much of what others have done—you may tend to take the same directions as everybody else.” This is the heart of the trap that exists.
As coaches we all borrow and steal ideas from others. You don’t try to reinvent the wheel, but give credit where it’s due and make things your own. There are so many resources available especially with technology today. Others have influenced all my coaching philosophies, offenses, and defenses. I am not smart enough to create everything on my own. But I am smart enough to read and research what other successful people have done.
The trap is created when we study and try to be like the greats. The trap is that if we try to be just like the greats, we will fail. We can’t try to do or be something that has already happened. If we do, we’re not making progress. We’ll come off as frauds. We must be creative and include our originality in our work.
There’s only one Michael Jordan, one Bill Gates, one Babe Ruth, and one John Wooden. I love that Lebron James says he doesn’t want to be like Michael Jordan when people try to compare the two. In a tweet Lebron said, “I’m not MJ, I’m LJ.” In an interview at the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend Lebron further explained his thinking. He said, “I want to be the greatest of all time. I don’t want to do it to say I’m better than this guy or that guy. I do it for my own inspiration.” I love it. He studies the game and the greats, but Lebron knows to truly become the best ever he must be himself. Trying to be Michael Jordan and do exactly what he did will not get him there. What will get him there is developing all of his natural talents and using them to become the best player he is capable of becoming. By the way, I love both players and I would give the edge to Jordan right now. Who knows how the two will stack up when Lebron’s career is over.
To avoid the trap, we must learn from and study the greats but not set out to be exactly who they are. We should study their work habits, beliefs, and practices. However, we must be ourselves. We must include our own originality. I came across this quote and thought it fit perfectly with this week’s topic. It says, “Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.” We’re all influenced by others, and should take the inspiration and let our own creativity run with it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be like the greats. It’s ok to follow the most successful one’s in our field. We fall into the trap when we do exactly what others did. It’s already been done and people will be bored with the second version. If we add our own flare and personality it will become fresh and unique. I have role models in the coaching business including Alan Stein, Coach Krzyzewski, and Coach John Wooden. My goal shouldn’t be to be exactly like them. It should be to learn from them and apply that knowledge to fully developing my potential. I’m sure they learned and borrowed from others as well. Every coach has. I’ve yet to meet one who hasn’t.
In the future find someone in your career field you admire, pick their brain, and study what made them successful. However, don’t fall into the trap of trying to be them. Be you. Be original. Be great!
I’ll end with this quote from Judy Garland, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!