I had a student tell me this. He wanted to be like me. He wanted to have a quick wit, an infectious laugh, an insane imagination. He wanted to be comfortable in front of people, and be funny at the drop of a hat. He wanted encyclopedic knowledge so he could riff on any subject.
I was surprised.
Here’s why: When he says, “Let’s go this way!” crowds of people follow him. When he inspires people, they go and do stuff. When he makes suggestions, people listen politely.
When I say, “Let’s go this way!” I get responses like, “Why?” or no response and I’m by myself. When I inspire people they’re inspired for about 37 seconds then don’t do anything. When I make suggestions, I get laughs…they think I’m joking. I don’t get taken seriously except by people who know me really well. There aren’t many people that know me that well.
There was a story about a guy who saw this professional golfer on the driving range. He walked up and said, “MAN! I wish I could drive like that! I’d give anything to be as good as you!” The pro stopped what he was doing and addressed the guy. “Would you really? Would you practice your drives until your hands bled? Would you practice putting for hours at a time? Would you spend thousands of dollars on coaching, specially made clubs, and greens fees? Would you spend 180 days on the road touring and competing? Would you be willing to lose 90% of the competitions you enter?” The man stammered. The pro said, “If you want to be like me, you have to work like me, you have to think like me, and you have to desire it like me.” Then he went back to practicing his drives.
Let me introduce myself.
I am a self improvement junkie. When you go to a law office, you will see their collection of books–hundreds of them. I would posit that most lawyers have never read all the books. I have hundreds of leadership books, tapes (yes the cassette type) CD’s, DVD’s, and workbooks. I have read and re-read every one of them. I went to Orlando to be certified in leadership training by John Maxwell. I have studied Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar. I have listened to webinars and watched videos of leaders in my profession (which is finance by the way). I have even written a leadership program with a workbook for use in Churches.
I also have a curiosity about EVERYTHING! So I read articles about scientific subjects–global warming, physics, conservation, animal behavior, kinesiology, anatomy, acoustics…I’m interested in how things work. I read and study human behavior like psychology and interpersonal communication. I am fascinated by economics (thanks to William Snyder from Peru State) and the financial markets, especially investments. I have 2 bachelor’s degrees–one in music and one in business finance. I am certified in many financial areas.
I like to connect things that normally aren’t connected…Toastmasters and Ballet for instance. Choreography is choreography. Use of the space when speaking is the same as use of the space for dancing. I adore observational humor–George Carlin and Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters are my favorites. My friend, George, and I do a bit about driving in Omaha which is observational in manner.
So if my student wanted to be like me, he’d have to read the things I have read, study the things I have studied, travel the places I have traveled, and associate with the people with whom I have associated. He’d have to develop an observational eye and a curiosity. But even if he did all that, he’d still be ‘him trying to be like me’ and not a better version of himself.
In order for me to be a leader like he is, I’d have to give up the humor and the impulsiveness that makes me uniquely me. Would that be a bad thing? No, actually. I would like to be taken seriously. What’s curious is that when people DO take me seriously, I get confused. “What? You mean that you DO think I’m intelligent? That I DO make sense? That I HAVE changed your perspective and you ARE going to act on it?” Then I shoot myself in the foot and say something dismissive or silly which makes people doubt my veracity. Being taken seriously is scary! At the same time, when I offer some insight or advice to someone that will drastically change their situation in life, and they laugh it off, IT BUGS THE HECK OUT OF ME!
Don’t be like someone, be the best version of you. To do that, you have to work on yourself to mold your mind and body into the person you want to grow into.