I’ve always had an idea of the type of person I wanted to be when I grew up. Well I’m grown up now and although there’s still a lot of work to be done, I think I’m a little closer to the idea.
There has always been someone who had traits that I wanted, traits that I imagined future me should have.
That doesn’t mean I wanted to be someone else entirely.
For example, if I met someone who was good at speaking that everyone wanted to talk to, well I’d get a little jealous. Then I would want that skill. I knew I had to improve my conversation and public speaking skills.
If I met a businessman who always had genius ideas, I would want to learn how to think like him, to run a business, to come up with ideas and different angles to make the idea work.
I thought of them kind of like super powers. I wanted to collect all the super powers.
Each time I met someone with traits I wanted, I would use the same tactic over and over to obtain those traits.
I’ve had the most luck with one simple learning tactic.
Copying. Mimicking. Imitating.
Whatever you want to call it, the idea is the same. Monkey see, monkey do.
It’s copying with the intent of learning and integrating the trait into my own personality.
It’s crazy because, depending on what community you’re involved it, copying is often looked down on–especially when it involves skill. I’ve even given others shit for using this tactic until I realized they were just trying to learn from me.
In street dance, it’s called biting and you get a lot of shit for doing it. You get called many vulgarities and you get called unoriginal for not coming up with your own flavor and instead opting to copy someone else’s style.
Please don’t bite.
In writing it’s called plagiarism. You can’t put words together on your own so you copy.
In academics it’s called cheating. You can’t solve a problem so you copy someone else’s answers.
The idea of copying deserves more credit because, in everything else, copying is learning.
By copying someone, you learn how that someone thinks. In essence, you aren’t just copying actions, you copy understanding. By copying, you learn how to be creative.
If you copy someone you admire, chances are, you’re going to become more like him. You can probably see how this tactic can play out.
A Better Way to Think of Copying
Rather than thinking of copying as doing everything exactly like someone else, think of it as copying traits, concepts, and understanding.
For example, if you want to write like certain author, you shouldn’t rewrite their book.
Don’t copy an entire work or an entire person or an entire idea. Take a few traits and integrate them into your own life.
“Copying is one of the best ways of learning, growing, evaluating, and exploring. It’s a valid tool so long as we regard it as a means to an end.” – Jason Cohen, Founder of WP Engine
I met hundreds of people in college and to be straight up, I found flaws in all of them.
You could say I judge, but I prefer to call it analyzing. I didn’t judge superficially, though. I analyzed because I wanted to learn. By analyzing people, I found traits that I genuinely admired and wanted to learn.
I had a big realization.[Tweet “Copying is the quickest way to become the person that you want to be.”]
So I made an effort to learn from every interaction I had.
What? Hangout? I’m okay here watching the sunset alone.
From Quiet Kid to Mr. Extrovert
I’ve always had trouble speaking about myself or what I did. Talking about myself for extended periods of time made me uncomfortable. It made me feel full of myself. Whenever someone posed a question, I often gave a short response and would turn another question over to them to get the spotlight off of me.
In a group of friends, I’ve noticed that there’s usually that one person that doesn’t say much. There’s one person that doesn’t really crack any jokes. That used to be me.
I would silently analyze how people interacted with each other so I could mimic them later on (it’s also probably because I’m more of an introvert, but that’s another story).
Image source: Austin Kleon.
However, I had a friend that was extremely talkative. She would often ramble on with stories about ex-boyfriends or what she did over the weekend. On some occasions, it grew tiresome. But I saw how excited others would get when she spoke to them. Her energy and eloquence drew others in. They wanted to listen.
I realized I had to learn to speak about myself. I paid attention to how she and other outgoing people spoke, their gestures and how they communicated excitement. By copying, I learned to speak about myself and how to better carry conversation.
It got to the point where people considered me to be very extroverted. Ha.
Chemist Turned Digital Marketer
After college, I made a switch from chemistry to digital marketing. Guess what I did.
I applied the concept of copying to learning skills.
I found the influencers in marketing and read their blogs.
Seth Godin taught me the power in keeping explanations short while Neil Patel taught me the value of thorough content. So I copied how they wrote and formatted their articles.
I wanted to learn copywriting so I read copywriting blogs and practiced by writing articles. Then I stopped writing and instead edited articles and learned to explain various copywriting tactics.
I found dozens of blogs and guides to online marketing so I read them and followed the authors and I would copy the strategies they shared. I wanted to get good at SEO so I read blogs that specialized on SEO. I wanted to learn social media, so I read about social media marketing strategies and copied them for my projects.
By copying, I took many shortcuts in learning. I avoided many mistakes that beginners tends to make and I learned to think strategically–almost like the influencers.
Copying has a very large grey area.
If you want to develop a personality trait, then copy someone who is strong in that trait.
If you’re looking learn a new skill, I encourage you to copy. Copy a lot. It’ll be the quickest method to develop your skills. I’ve been doing marketing for less than two years and I got a job at a digital marketing agency. I learned by copying.
Just take note that you shouldn’t be copying to become someone else. Copying should be a means to an end, not the end it self.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. – Kurt Vonnegut
Don’t copy what someone does. Copy how they do things.
So who’s the next person you’re going to copy? (: