Did you ever want to be like somebody else, trying to copy their style or their ways? Most of us have, and it likely started when we were kids.

I wanted to be like Sandy Koufax. 

My favorite all-time baseball player was Sandy Koufax, left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the 1960s he compiled maybe the best four consecutive years of any pitcher in the history of the game.

I was also a lefty and copied his entire pitching motion. In my mind I was throwing like Koufax, down to the last detail. When my junior league teammates caught on they laughed at the notion.

“How could they be so dense,” I thought. “I’m sure it looks like him.” Then I saw a film one of the parents made of me pitching and I groaned. I might have resembled Irving Koufax or Johnny Koufax, but wasn’t even close to Sandy Koufax.

Copying singers to the last note

Probably just like you, I knew the words to many of the top songs in my teen years, and I could sing them. When I did, I tried to sound just like the artists who made the songs a hit, including the way they nailed certain notes, screams, grunts and more.

My goal was to be exactly like them. When I heard somebody else sing the same song and they didn’t come off like a carbon copy of the original, I have to admit I was disappointed.

Later, I came to realize my view was short-sighted. In the last few years, I’ve seen some very talented people on YouTube who have provided their own cover versions of popular songs, and can now appreciate them, differences and all.

It’s our uniqueness that people notice

I’ve written about Big Ed, one of my early managers and mentors who had a big impact on my life. I remember when Ed took a vacation and left one of the mechanics in charge of the fleet vehicle operation. He was a good guy and we liked him. That, and the fact that he was the boss’ choice as a fill-in was enough for us to put out our maximum effort during Ed’s absence.

Then something strange happened. Several times while he explained instructions to us, he not only used Ed’s style of language, but he also dropped a couple of the same jokes.

He didn’t seem to be doing some kind of comedy takeoff on Ed, and that’s what made it seem weird. We began looking at each other, like, “Did he really say that?”

Learn from others but don’t copy them

Let’s say your boss gives a great presentation to the management team on a certain topic or workflow. The visuals are spot on and he hit all the key points perfectly. You decide you want to borrow the slides to deliver the same talk to your team. The temptation might be to try to mimic the boss.

My recommendation is to study the material so you know it backwards and forwards. When it’s time to present the program you do it your way, adding your individual touches.

After a while, you’ll develop your own style. It will be part of your one-of-a-kind trademark, uniquely yours.

Imitation isn’t always the sincerest form of flattery

Many times over the years I’ve received the greatest gift a trainer can get, when a former student reaches out to say they’re using the things they picked up in one of my courses, and it’s working for them.

You want to know what’s even better? When they tell me they’ve added their own ideas. That’s the formula for progress, taking what works, making changes, then testing the new creation.

Wisdom gets recycled

We feed what we know into our kids, so they’ll do the same for their kids, and each generation processes it a little differently. One day, when a grandchild or great-grandchild shares with you a chunk of wisdom that seems familiar, that may have gotten its start as a seed you planted decades ago…just smile and acknowledge them for it.

It’ll be a reminder of one of the main reasons you’re here.

Jerry Roberts comments on business and the workplace daily at 7:20 am on The Ray Gibson Show on The Point, 93.3 FM. He can be reached at guamtraining.com, or email jroberts@guamtraining.com

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