Learning from others is fantastic. Examining a list of Genghis Khan’s productivity habits and changing your entire personality to fit them is less helpful. When taking cues from your role models, focus on the tips that can fit into your life, rather than trying to become someone else.
Photo by Tijakool Yiyuan
As productivity blog 99u points out, there’s a tendency to assume a particular narrative that says, for example, Steve Jobs did things the “right” way, so if you want to be successful like him, do it his way. The truth is, Jobs was as different from his rivals as they are to him. Becoming Steve Jobs isn’t the key to success. It was a key. And there are plenty of others:
Think of the startup myth of a bunch guys in a garage. Or the one that all founders have to work for 80-hour weeks to be successful. Or how every successful designer is obsessive about every last detail. These “keys to success” create a culture and mythology around certain behaviour that likely has little to do with the success of the person who practices it. What is worse, by forcing yourself to adopt the behaviour of your idol, you may be supressing your true temperament, which, it turns out, could be the right mindset for you after all. We don’t need more Mark Zuckerberg-types creating startups or Stefan Sagmiester-types creating art. We need new ideas and new perspectives, which starts with owning who you uniquely are.
It’s great to learn from people who have been there before. Someone who’s achieved success can probably tell you something about how to get there. However their life had very different circumstances than yours probably does. Learning how they handle problems is good, but if you can’t add something of your own to the mix, you’ll likely have some problems achieving that same level of success.